Fighting Our Escapist Tendencies: The Resilience of the Human Spirit

About 100 billion nerve cells, bundled together in
an anonymous mass and sitting in our skulls, are responsible for three human
phenomena: consciousness, reasoning and love. The brain is one of the most
fascinating, yet mysterious, features of the human body.

Neuroscientists have mapped the human
brain for two decades and can generally describe which centers of the brain are
activated in experiences of sadness. Through research, we know one such center is the
amygdala, a brain region located deep within the temporal lobes.

In moments of happiness, the regions of the cerebral cortex
associated with forethought and planning will shut down. Life science does its best
to explain the brain, and psychology has given us the tools to understand its
processes. But science does not explain the soul.

William James, an American philosopher and psychologist, said
that a baby’s first impression of the world is “as one great blooming, buzzing
confusion.” As we grow older, it appears that the buzzing only grows louder.
Our brains have the ability to rationalize what is happening around us, but our
souls protect the heart, presenting intangible pathways that allow us to connect with one
another. We are tied together because of chemical reactions that occur in our
brains. 

I am most fascinated by the resilience of the soul, or, on a
broader scale, the resilience of the human spirit. 

Each day we witness images of death and tragedy in the news. Often these images stir up a
conscious or subconscious emotional response, but because of the way we isolate ourselves, this news does not usually
do substantial damage to our spirits.

We have built up protections, and the media have adapted to a form of society-wide escapism. For every story about death in the Gaza Strip,
the terror of Boko Haram or ISIS, there is a story about Kim Kardashian’s hair. The death of an unarmed person at the
hands of a police force meant to serve and protect is overlooked in favor of ignorant and trivial happenings. 

When tragedy hits closer to home, like in the case of the
unexpected passing of my friend’s father this past Sunday morning, it does have
a more palpable affect on the soul. 

The tragedy of loss is a difficult challenge to surmount.
When it occurs unexpectedly, the pain intensifies. Upon learning of the death of
my friend’s father, I reached out to my own parents. My friend’s loss shocked me into thinking about mortality—the finite amount of time we each have.

As clichéd as it is, Steve Jobs was correct in saying this:
“If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be
right.” But more than that, by living true—true to your mind and intuition,
you condition your soul to be open to the love of others.

How do you measure a life well-lived? Measure the resilience
of your spirit: Are you open to the joy of others? Can you find peace in the midst
of sadness?

Even though science and psychology can explain a lot, sometimes empiricism simply will not suffice.  

My dad replied to me late Sunday night. He said, “I’ll
always be with you, you are a part of my soul.”

Taylor Lemmons CM ’17 is an international relations and legal studies dual major from Denver, Colo.

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