A fresh start or starting again from the beginning are easy words or slogans to express, but this, in reality, is a difficult task to accomplish. No investment of funds is required, merely a decision we make and move forward with. I stand to be corrected, but if this is the case, then why is having ‘a fresh start’ such a challenging entity?
Amazingly we can literally achieve or initiate the notion of a fresh start, each second, minute, hour, day, week, month, or even at the turn of the year, which is a whole 365 and a quarter days. New Year often offers the best opportunity to marry a fresh start with New Year’s resolutions. I wrote in my last post about the best laid New Year intentions, sinking before the boat has even been lowered into the water.
Therefore, if it is so easy to realise, why do we struggle to forge a fresh start? The answer may just lie in the image below; I have taken the liberty of removing the text and titles. Deliberately done to allow your brain to conceptualise what you see without influence. Take a moment to fascinate and absorb the image below.
What is this image about?
The image was produced by Tim Urban and Andrew Finn from WaitButWhy. These guys produce pretty cool drawings of stick figures about psychological shortcomings.
This may just give away the subplot of the image but still requires a little thought from your end.
I ponder a close friend of mine, Kirsty, is tired of being my therapist friend, who towards the back end of 2021, has been at the receiving end of being my human punchbag; through it all, she stood firm against the tidal wave. At the turn of the year, I received the image via WhatsApp one minute past midnight on the first day of 2020.
This was her way of hinting that I needed to get brave and grow some proverbial balls. Since then, my daily productivity has decreased downwards towards the south, with daily procrastination heading north. The image (titles and text will be revealed below soon) requires you to pause and take in what you want to see!
What am I seeing or meant to see?
The beauty of such an image is that we all see what we want to see. So I SEE THE BRAIN when I look at the image, aside from seeing the outline of a spider web design in progress, the layout of a new complex London tube or train system, a new road infrastructure programme detailing.
I took it upon myself to become a bookworm midway through 2021; the genre of books that keep finding me are cognitive related books. My current book is Matthew Walker ‘Why We Sleep’. Before the current book was Jeff Hawkins’s book ‘A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence’. Both books are compelling, and I would highly recommend them. I will reframe from providing any spoilers; I plan on doing a blog post related to findings from both books, I will leave it there for now.
The image (see below) is ‘neurons in a slice of the neocortex’ from Jeff Hawkins’s book reminds me of the image above. The neocortex is the newest part of our brain; it essentially means the outer layer. The neocortex is the origin of intelligence; it handles all the capabilities we think of as intelligence, such as vision, language, music, maths, science, and engineering, all of these are created in the neocortex.
These beautiful and intricate images of the slice of the neocortex were drawn by hand by Santiago Ramon Cajal in late 1800. He created thousands of images that, for the first time, showed what the brain looks like at the cellular level. Cajal received the Nobel Prize for his work. The left-hand image shows only the cell bodies of neurons, and the right-hand image indicator connections between the cells.
Another image that comes to mind is the above, which shows the ‘Effects of Various Drugs on Spider Web Building’. This image was taken from Matthew Walker’s book ‘Why We Sleep’. In his efforts to explain the effects of caffeine on your sleep. He candidly speaks about caffeine being used to stay awake and the phenomenon of ‘caffeine crash’.
When the caffeine begins to leave the body, it leaves the individual finding it difficult to function and concentrate and a strong sense of sleepiness instead of weakness.
As caffeine is a stimulant drug, Matthew Walker always takes the opportunity to illustrate the effects of caffeine whenever he’s doing a presentation. He uses the findings from a study conducted in the 1980s by NASA, which exposed spiders to different drugs and then observed the webs that they constructed.
The results presented in the above image speak for themselves. The spiders could not construct anything that resembled a regular web when given caffeine, even relative to the other drugs tested.
I am sure that the brain is not at the forefront of your thoughts when you think of the initial image I presented. I can only assume that I am heavily influenced by my past reading habits.
Letting go of the past for a fresh start
The title of the original image by the guys at WaitButWhy is called “21 Thoughts From 2021 I’d Like to Take Into 2022”. The creators wanted you to pause to reflect on your past, where you are today, and what the future may hold.
When Kirsty shared this image with me, I could assume that she insisted that I should let go of my past. From today onwards, I could take the path of endless possibilities. I have come across many texts about how the past is history, and we cannot change it, but today is the present, which is a gift that must be appreciated. In the exact text, the future is described as a mystery, which infers that today must be enjoyed and wait for tomorrow.
I have spent each and every day since 1st January trying to make sense of the image. From its simplistic overview, I believe it says we have travelled the past to get it today, and from today we have endless possibilities.
My interpretation of “21 Thoughts From 2021 I’d Like to Take Into 2022” is a little at odds with the past being history, today being the gift and the future being a mystery. Yet, we must learn from history when we look back in the past from today.
The only way to prevent making the same past mistakes is to learn from history. Then, from today going forward, you must use the knowledge you have learnt from the past to help you plan to move from today to tomorrow and the future. I am of the personal opinion that all three stages are mutually exclusive.
To appreciate the endless possibilities of the future, we cannot simply say that today is a gift that must be enjoyed; in the enjoyment process, plans must be made to move forward.
A palpable feeling I have inside looking at the image is how it can impact children. Science has proven that the brain begins to harden from the ages of nine years old, and by the age of 16 to 18, it is more or less hardened, with little room for increased learning. It is well known that a child’s brain is malleable and shapable with the ability to absorb in the early years; this offers endless possibilities if they were to be cultured on the past, today and the future.
As adults, we may well have become a fossil, but consider the impact of the past, today and the future on a child. Today offers us the chance of a fresh start; using the past knowledge can help ensure that we have more green paths open for the future. This should be how we educate children.