Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Mirror, The Neuron and The Umbilical Cord

One of the most awe inspiring moments in a human being's experience is the birth of a child. One of the longest moments is the one which follows. The one in which the obstetrician lifts the child, still attached by it's life-giving umbilical cord, and says "It's a......" And the moments that follow, each more awesome than the next. The information you receive, as you gaze ever intently into the soul of this yet perfect little being, is comparable to everything you've learned thus far. And this new little being's awe, as he looks into your soul, cannot be matched, until he gazes into a soul of his own creation.

And as we gaze, in the days and weeks that follow,  into the depths of this new little being, eager to know what is yet to be known, our intentions  become one. The child, inherently begins to mirror us as we coo.We purse our lips, he purses his. We raise our eyebrows, he follows.  It's called mirroring, and neuroscientists have found that this mimicking is caused by a small set of neurons. The more we learn about these neurons, the more clear it becomes, how vital they are to that which makes us human: empathy, language, interdependency, and the list goes on and on. We are hardwired, then, it seems, to connect, and to depend on one another.

Our very survival relies on the abilities these neurons provide us, to have our needs met, and indeed to follow convention itself. Herd behavior is the perfect example of how a decision by one to flee when a threat is perceived, ignites the same urge in others near by. It is a mechanism which protects the group from predators. Similar examples can be found in consumerism like trendsetting and trend-following. 
I've even heard it called "The Oprah Effect".
 
Mass Hysteria and Mob Mentality, are the other sides of the coin.

 There's the Bandwagon Effect, and Groupthink, and on and on and on. Mirroring abounds, compounding, and compounding Ala' MC Escher. 



But herein lies the kicker: We can create the reflection. Consider  the immortal words of Mahatma Gandhi: 

"Doesn't the New Testament Say that if your enemy strikes you on the right cheek, offer him the left?...I have thought about it a great deal, and I suspect he (Christ) meant that you must show courage. Be willing to take a blow; several blows, to show that you will not strike back, nor will you be turned aside, and when you do that, it calls on something in human nature, that makes hatred for you decrease and his respect  increase. I think Christ grasped that, and I have seen it work"

"Be the Change You Wish To See in the World"

The truth of the matter is that attitude is contagious. Not only to those who look up to us,those who depend on us for survival, for direction; but to everyone around us, everyone we come in contact with is effected by our attitude.  What goes around doesn't really come around, it ricochets; in a nanosecond it reflects right back at us. 
Attitude is a boomerang. Whatever you project not only injects the other, but it seeps right out and injects us right back.

"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor."
Henry David Thoreau

We can consciously effect our own attitude. And we know that attitude is contagious. Attitude is like the life-giving umbilical cord from me to you. Can we be conscious then, of creating an attitude in ourselves that we can feel comfortable disseminating?

"People of Character do the right thing, not because they think they can change the world, but because they refuse to be changed by the world."
-Michael Josephson
Ethicist
Creator of "Character Counts"

Attitude is Everything.

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