Dr. Marian Diamond, a neuroscientist, overturned long-held beliefs by proving through research that environmental factors can change the brain and that the brain can be developed over a lifetime. Before her research began in the mid-1960s the established belief was that the brain cannot “grow” and be enhanced to “grow” through environmental experiences. Spending some time researching Dr. Diamond and her work is well worth one’s time. Dr. Diamond recently passed away at the age of 90; she taught at the university level well into her 80s.
A friend of mine told me a story of entering the seventh grade middle school. He’s a grown man, now; flies for FedEx. In fact, he is the captain that does check rides with other pilots to make sure they are topnotch. Basically, he is master of his craft.
He told me that the first day of seventh grade, he and another child from his elementary school got off the bus to take the long walk up to the entrance of the gargantuan two story school. He had finished K-6th with 300 students only to enter a school of 2500. The principal at the elementary school knew all the students, and he had buddies and favorite teachers; and some teachers, he remembered, favored him.
In spite of all the different levels of outward adornment, no one has it made, and no one really has it easy. Everyone has turmoil. Examples are love, loss, worry, the future, and death. In fact, the more one faces this reality as life on life’s terms, the greater our struggle, on one hand, and yet, on the other hand, the greater our joy. The more I know how much like everyone else I am, the more I can identify with others and care about others. And vice versa. That experience is the relating in relationship.
As to increase of struggle, knowing others’ pains in life increases our own pain because we care for more than just ourselves. As to increase of joy, to share each other’s pain also shares the burden of that pain, which lessens it. We do not carry the burden of our lives alone. Not only will we share our struggles, but we also will share our celebrations, which increases the joy of joy.
Aristotle said that a friend halves our sorrows and doubles our joys. Solomon said, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can pick him up” (Eccl. 4:9).
To see and experience life otherwise, can multiply our misery by keeping our inner lives to ourselves and seeing others as having no struggles. When I get trapped in comparing my insides to other people’s outsides, I measure my internal universal human condition as a singular, isolative experience. I make everyone either better off or worse off, and no one else is like me—I am alone.
An example of what I mean by alone is what can happen when a person sitting at home on a Saturday night, having looked forward to quiet, replenishing solitude, begins to thumb through facebook or instagram. The presentations are often full of all things desired. Smiles, hugs, abundance, laughter, giggling, banquets, exotic places, sunshine, snow, scuba diving, skiing, cookouts, awards, more awards, acquaintances by the thousands, and then someone finishing their night with a surprise guest appearance on a late night show! The quiet evening at home, desired greatly for rest, can suddenly become a place of misery.
The problem isn’t what the person is seeing. The problem is the potential to find what one desired in the quiet evening as somehow less than everyone else’s life. Or better than others, if the person can find some facebook misery. Either way, the comparisons contaminate the experience of one’s own life.
If we are living our own lives, making our own choices, facing our own choices, living how we are created, that is, halving our sorrows and doubling our joys, we are missing little and possessing everything. All of us sail in the same ship of life. We only miss this reality when we compare our insides to others’ outsides, instead of sharing our insides outside with other wonderful people who somehow know how much alike we all are.