Repetition for Emphasis

That’s as far as my acknowledgment section goes.
There is something about this tweet which damned my thoughts onto eternity of contemplation and the like. Shortly before this eternity was complete, the link became apparent. It has to be the case that we need eternity at some point, to understand, because things have to make sense everything is rational—even to the irrationals. Thanks to the metaphors which shape our world.

The human physiology which makes this true—the fact that everything makes sense when listened to long enough—is the very concept of neuroplasticity. This is the same theory which makes it easy for us to learn through our experiences; especially if it happens over and over again. For example, let us assume Annie goes swimming on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Lake Freedom and gets bitten (or stung) by a jellyfish. When Joan, Annie’s friend, suggests a swimming retreat with Lake Freedom being the location for glorious skinny dipping, bells should ring off in Annie’s head from the memory of the jellyfish sting. Another example is the Congolese concept of Ilunga—which is employed in the movie “Lucky Number Sleven” when the Rabbi says “if some one calls you a horse, you punch him in the face; if he calls you a horse again, you call him a jerk; if he calls you a horse the third time, well, it’s time to buy a saddle”. And the mechanism which makes this possible, memory.

Lexically deconstructing “neuroplasticity”, we can come to the simple conclusion that whoever made this word thinks “neurons are plastic”. Plasticity—kin to elasticity—decides not to come back home; it takes every change to itself, conforming all to an unidirectional fate. Singular neurons cannot be plastic—that would be a disaster if we all had heads made with Tupperware!—but the collective behavior of neurons through time plays by laws of plasticity. Now for the gory technical details. Feel free to skip on to the next paragraph; but if you do, and you are a meticulous reader, you may be forced to come back to these—just a hint (;

  • Neuroplasticity is more rampant in children. I claim if time is limited to a window small enough, we could observe neuro-elasticity in the brains of children—the frequency of these changes in the brain of a child at an abstract collective scale hints so; hypothetically. Older people tend to be more rigid; with lesser propensity to change as age goes up, but they never become brittle; maybe in the occurence of a psychological disease.
  • There are only two conditions under which neuroplasticity occurs in the brain: during the development of a child, and as an adaptive mechanism to compensate for lost function in the event of a brain injury. There was a case of a child who has to undergo hemispherotomy (a big word for a big surgical operation which removes one half of your brain) because a hemisphere of her brain was misfiring signals causing uncontrollable seizures. She came out of the surgery partially paralyzed and had to re-learn some simple basic motor functions; like walking. After some therapy, an MRI image of her brain showed the remaining half of her brain developing into the empty space. Neuroplasticity!
  • Your environment is one of the key factors which affect the rate at which your brain is plastic.

Chants are an example of hearing it over and over again to make sense. During ancient times, sects kept their histories by repeating them in form of folklore or music. Soon, such repetitions became hymns and prayers. A representation in modern day of chants can be seen in the well-known and well-loved HBO special, Game of Thrones. Prior to the end of season three—apologies for the spoiler—Arya Stark begins a chant/prayer in order not to forget what King Joffery did to her father, the Noble Ned Stark. The chant went thus

Joffrey… Cersei… Ilyn Payne… The Hound… Polliver… The Mountain…
— source: Game of Thrones Wiki

At first, when she was told to do this, this did not make sense to her—obviously, an old man in a cave claiming to worship a Fire God talking about prayer to a child of The North who has neither concept of prayer nor worship of immortals, let alone the unseen, is a futile and risible attempt. But soon this becomes internalized hate for Arya—one so pungent, it reeks by her very presence—which goes on to forge her personality, gains her future audience with the priestess of light and so on. Bottom line, it made sense after hearing it over and over again—playing on her, and our, neuroplasticity.

Political Campaigns
Now, if you are like me, you detest politics and their flawed rhetoric; more so their perpetual failed promises as they attempt not only to predict the future, but to take a hold of it by. them.selves! Futility at it’s finest, no? They are nothing but tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, consequently damning all others. But for the sake of expansion upon this topic, can we discuss this a bit? “Yes we can” or was it “Yes, we can” or “Yes! We can”… it definitely was not “Yes! We can?”. The famous slogan for the Obama campaign—sorry America, it’s hard not to use you as an example. This slogan was the horse that drew the carriage of “Change will come to America”—another pillar upon which the Obama campaign stood. Let us arrest the “but [some] change did come to America” thought here; this post transcends—I think—the mediocre banter politicians use to evaluate their prowess. The effect of political campaigns is to get it engrained into the minds of the masses that s/he who is to be elect is nothing else but the narrow few traits selected to appeal to their standards, principles, ethics, beliefs and all that jazz. Rewind your memory to a day before the campaign started and you will realize you know nothing about s/he who got elected. Lives were perfectly fine before this candidate came promising heaven and anti-hell in a political package. Rewind your memory to the start of the campaign and recall the “what is this?” feeling you had in your head with the tendency to stop listening to it before you found something which appealed to you. Now enter the chant, and that just solidified the entire campaign in a slogan. And how do they make these politicians gain your vote in a proper democratic republic, they make you hear speeches, over and again, of the same views, subtly forging an identity of the candidate—which may not, and most times turns out not to be, their proper identities—into our ever malleable, neuroplastic minds.

Boys and Girls
At some age through life—which is not specified by any research, and dare I say can never be unless humans begin to break ethical boundaries and start running experiments on babies… oh, wait, never mind—the human mind begins to cling on to what it usually hears. From this micro—and much variegated—chants, it forms its reality, it forms what it would go on to know as “truth”. Then comes the much anticipated thought which crosses most minds when the eyes skim over “Boys and Girls” as a title. Oh the ease at which belief can be spurred up in another with the correct engineering of this illusory noises we call “words”. More so, the repetition of the same theme makes the idea take a strong foothold in the mind of the unprepared. Terms on endearment like darling, honey, love[ly], sweetheart, petit chou, baby, chuchuzinho; and the more recent hun, boo, bae, stud, sexy, and so on tend to make the object—object here does not mean “one objectified” but object in terms of the “receiver of the verb from the subject”—most times unprepared, feel closer to whoever uses these words properly. Continual use of this can be used to bring people close together irrespective of respect and all morphologies of the word. Dare I add, if one could endow a rock with hearing and emotions only, then subject the rock to repetitive chants of such terms from the same subject—remember the context in which we used object earlier?—this rock would feel endeared to the subject so much that is would offer itself to be thrown at any enemy of the subject.

It does not just stop at attraction with the Boys and Girls topic. Self-esteem is a direct consequence—an epiphenomenon (; if I may dance around words—of things making sense when listened to long enough. Consider a rather ugly brother or an aesthetically challenged sister, with their condition endowed by the uncontrollable misfortune of birth caused by two who should not have, OR maybe endowed by some work of their hands, making them less pleasing to set eyes upon. Imagine this is the fact of the matter; heck, imagine someone you know and have already—in your mind—put into this category. If this person, over the course of time, keeps hearing words like “beauty”, “confident”, “hermosa”, “handsome” and so on, over and again, they would come out with a new persona—dare I say one which is outside their class. They would attack a fashion runway swinging and swaying, now right, now left, now right again…confident—if not pompous—in every right, as they believe they are. This belief promulgates a mask which properly suits the words which have been enchanted into them; even when they check themselves out in mirrors, all they see is this mask. Funny “enchantment” came into the mix, isn’t it? To those who aren’t learned, this should come through as witchcraft. Enchanting, isn’t it? Neuroplastic!

Prayers, Religion, Moral Codes
There is not much to say to this if you have read up on the Chants section. I leave the connections between the two domains to be made by the reader.

And you…
A collection of definitions dished out by you and others you esteem to wrought you into who you think you are today. A collection of repetitions—most of them containing the verb “be”. For a minute or two, take a break from daily routine and consider “you”—pen down, if needed, what you think makes “you” you. You would find the repetitions: female, straight, rich, principled, son, white, president, right-handed, dumb, strong, tall, the list goes on ad infinitum.

  • Critical consideration would make it apparent that all definitions of “you” you call “your-self” are only traits of “you”; nothing has been able to define you yet.
  • Critical consideration would make it apparent that the possibilities of the realization of all traits of “you” are equally likely.

So how did these specific traits of “you” come together in you to make you who you are—who “you” is as you? Now there are many answers to this question as the maximum permutation of engagement between the human population. For reasons of this piece, consider “repetitions”. Ever since your birth—and dare I say “until your death”—you hear repetitions, reassurances of who you are. These repetitions mold you. Most would argue these do not affect their daily lives; but proper introspection would reveal these folks actively shun such repetitions and do something else, which is—in a sense—an artist painting with negative space …on a canvas of neuroplasticity.

Did it make sense yet?


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