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Choice

February 4, 2009

I’ve been reading a fascinating book on the concept of neuroplasticity, the research-supported theory that the brain is in a constant state of flux and changes in response to environment and inputs.  (The book is called Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain by Sharon Begley.).  The structure of the neurons in our brains as well as the space devoted to certain activities and emotions can shrink and expand depending on what we “feed” it, which has profound implications for the fields of psychology, education, and even physical therapy. 

Interestingly, after reading several chapters in Train Your Mind this afternoon and evening, I read a chapter in East of Eden in which three of the main characters have a conversation about the correct translation of a particular passage in Genesis.  One version of the Bible translates God’s words to Cain as a command to overcome sin; another version translates God’s words as a statement that man is destined to conquer sin.  One of the men in the conversation, a man of Chinese ancestry, decides to take the matter to four Chinese sages.  The sages find it an interesting issue and go about learning Hebrew so that they can read the original version of Genesis.  After two years, they feel confident in their ability to translate the original version correctly, and their translation is:  “Thou mayest overcome sin.”  Cain, and man, had the choice of overcoming sin; it was not his destiny or his obligation, but his choice. 

As one of the characters points out, the new translation changes everything for humankind because we do not have the excuse of being destined or condemned for one thing or another.  It is up to us to decide our fate.

I never much liked the saying “you are what you eat,” but I do believe that you are what you choose to be, and life is what you choose to make of it. You can choose to change your mind, and you can even choose to change your brain.

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One Comment
  1. Yes, I believe this, too. Eve was given the choice of either eating or not eating the apple (at a point in time when she knew the consequences of her act); no one forced this on her. The allegory seems clear to me: it is often tempting to choose the path of least resistance but not generally the easiest. Genesis is also about setting examples, which can be just as difficult. Mae

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