Day 28 Found Wisdom: On Your Aging Brain

I was just passing by the magazine section of the bookstore, on my way to the “rest room.” I hadn’t intended to look at magazines at all. But this Time special edition caught my eye.

The whole topic of creativity was one I’d been reading about, and learning interesting bits of “found wisdom.” (I mentioned some of them early in this series.)

Plus, I suppose this subtitle had a special draw:

After all, I’m an aging person. So I’ve got an aging brain. And I’ve been so fired up lately to pursue creativity. Is this a foolhardy notion?

There’s a whole chapter on this in this book posing as a mere magazine. And look at what new findings it talks about:

I don’t know how you react to that statement, but I think it’s stunning. After all we’ve been led to believe! As the article itself relates:

“Until quite recently, most researchers believed the human brain followed a fairly predictable developmental arc… It… reached its peak of power and nimbleness by age 40. After that, [it] began a slow decline, clouding up little by little until, by age 70 or 80, it had lost much of its ability to retain new information and was fumbling with what it had… That, as it turns out is hooey.”

It goes on to report that neurologists and psychologists are now concluding that the brain during the years from 35 to 65 “and even beyond–is much more elastic and supple than anyone ever realized.”

I just can’t help but wonder if some of those “old folks” did realize it, but no one else wanted to believe it.

What scientists are reporting is that though aging can bring about in some people “inflexibility, confusion, and even later-life dementia,” for many other people the aging process actually makes the brain work better! And it mentions some of the examples of continued creative productivity beyond the age of 70 that we should perhaps have paid more attention to, like Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Doris Lessing. (There are lots more, really.)

The article quotes UCLA neurologist George Bartzokis, who explains, “In midlife [increasingly considered to include up to age 65] you’re beginning to maximize the ability to use the entirety of the information in your brain on an everyday, ongoing, second-to-second basis. Biologically, that’s what wisdom is.”

So, I guess there was something all along to the idea of the “wise old man” or “wise old woman.”

There’s way too much information for me to relate here in a short blog post, but it involves things like the importance of not “gray matter,” but “white matter” increasing in the higher brain regions (where the “seat of sophisticated thought” is), and the use of a different hemisphere of the brain (or both hemispheres–“similar to the way you need both hands to lift a weight that you could lift with one hand when you were younger”). Changes in the brain as we age also may improve temperament in many people, which enables them to take a more mature demeanor to the the table and to deal more ably in people relationships.

Well, I love this “new” wisdom about wisdom, and creativity, relative to age. What encouragement to pursue learning, creativity, and interrelating with others, even into whatever ancient age God may enable me to reach! It makes me think of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, who figured out all those complex crime schemes nobody else could, when the people around her who didn’t know better just thought of her as an inept, doddering old maid. It also brought to mind this quote I’d found in my book of sayings:

And I smile.




Day 25 Found Wisdom: Getting Freed from the Past

I must have found today’s wisdom twice!

I had it in the wings to write about this week, and had picked out photos of a collage it had inspired, to use as illustration.

But yesterday, sorting though my art things, I came upon a little book that I’d used to collect last year’s 31 Mini-Collages. Here I now also saw a few additional (mini) collages I’d done and included shortly after that time, but had forgotten about till leafing now through the little book.

This was one of them:

Be not the slave of your own past…”

That’s all it says.

But that’s just the beginning of the famous quote. This first collage of mine leaves the viewer hanging…

The pictures in it hint that the slavery it’s addressing revolves around tradition or family history. And both can get a strong hold on a person and not want to let go.

I had just observed an interesting example last week:

I’d gone out to lunch with a friend. The wind blew blustery and biting in the parking lot; so naturally we made a beeline for the closest door. Alas, the closest door turned out to be locked; so we made our way, shivering, around to the front of the building and entered by the main entrance.

After an enjoyable lunch, when we stood up to leave, I turned to go out the side door that had been locked but now was obviously unlocked, at least from the inside. But my friend said, “I can’t go out that door. I have to go out the front door.” I just stood looking quizzical, waiting for an explanation. As we moved toward the front door, she explained: “I’m Pennsylvania Dutch. I’ve always been told you should never go out a different door from the one you came in.”

Omygoodness! I thought. I had the same heritage, and I now remembered that same admonition in my own family. But I’d completely forgotten it. And I don’t think I ever learned just why, supposedly, you  should always exit by the same door you entered.

My friend didn’t know either. It was just a tradition from childhood, but it still had a firm grip on her after decades of adulthood.

Whether Emerson was referring to tradition I don’t know, but when you read the whole context of what he wrote, you’ll probably suspect there’s much more to it than that. For it speaks of gaining self-respect among other things. And, where the brief bit of quote above gives no clue as to how one might avoid being a slave to such things, the context it comes from does:

My second collage about the same quote.

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, Dive deep, and swim far.

So you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”

“Plunge into the sublime seas”! Whatever Emerson had in mind by that, what it signifies to me is diving deep into fellowship with Christ, soaking up His presence, getting in tune with His widsom and His ways, walking–or, “swimming”–with him in profound, holy, yielded fellowship.

What could better give you self-respect and new power, and an advanced experience that could explain and overlook the old one?


Q: What are some ways you  could be enslaved by your past?

(Remedy: “Plunge into the sublime seas…””)



Day 24 Found Wisdom: About “No More” and the Color Purple

Tomorrow, October 25th, is Purple Thursday.

Do you know what that is?

Do you know how important and helpful to millions of people it might be for you simply to wear the color purple tomorrow?

It’s about domestic violence awareness and prevention. It’s a public statement that says “No more!” 

My awareness about this terrible blight on our homes and entire culture has grown hugely in recent years, and this month it grew a bit more via this found wisdom in a county library display:

This is a US national statistic.
The stat I unfortunately cut off in this photo is a shocking 10 million victims annually!
Though this is the NCADV’s definition, most statistics like the ones mentioned above do not include emotional/psychological abuse, which is a very real health- and even life-threatening phenomenon. It is just hard to prove, and therefore is omitted from stats and court cases, where it robs time from proving actual physical crimes, a more achievable endeavor.
Just the social change of public attitude about domestic violence/abuse can have a surprisingly strong deterrent effect. That’s why more and more people wearing purple on Purple Thursday and becoming more aware about domestic violence can be so valuable.

There are many who feel they have no voice. Another stat I read reported that 65% of domestic violence victims said they received no help. Many are not even believed when they do try to tell.

Shall we take a stand? Shall we, just quietly and individually, accept this invitation from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence:

“Make a fashion statement that really says something: wear something purple on Thursday, October 25th to honor victims and support survivors of domestic violence! This year marks the 7th annual observance of Purple Thursday, the awareness day launched by the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence that’s now gone national with Purple Thursday observances in Massachusetts, New York and Oklahoma…”

I’m wearing purple tomorrow, how about you?

For more about Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Purple Thursday click here.

For more about “No More…!” click here.