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From this Perch: Rumination, increase human deliberation

When I am not living in awareness, I gravitate toward mindless habit.

For instance, if I'm not fully awake, there's a good chance that I won't actually think about a news event as it comes to my attention. It's more likely to be knee-jerk, as in "Who does this help?"/ "Who does it hurt?" and then my opinion will follow.

If I'm not sure of my take in this robotic mode, I can easily check in with my favored news sources — those I have already chosen because they pretty much agree with me in the first place.

Maybe you know someone like that.

I've heard we typically use about 10 percent of our brain matter. But come on, when I'm in that breaking news / knee-jerk mode, I'll bet it's way less than even 1 percent. Closer to hypnotic.

I wonder if evolution might someday lead to a new part of our brain, a chamber that would cause us to take in a news event, bypass the knee-jerk reaction and immediately hand the ball off to a portion of the brain that would quietly and calmly process the information. Slow it down. Think about it.

Wait, that would be like having an open mind.

But speaking of rumination, I am amazed at how a particular animal in the ruminant family — the deer — gets its food in the winter. No grasses, leaves or berries to munch on, so what's a deer to eat?

The answer varies, but one among others is the terminal bud of a young tree. That bud is packed with stored energy — energy the tree will use when Spring comes around.

But enter plant-loving ruminants like deer, and those terminal buds are food.

It's not over, however. That food comes with a hitch: plant material is mostly made up of cellulose, a molecule animals can't digest.

Now that's a problem. Well, except for some animals — like deer.

It's about evolution. Around 50 million years ago, according to genetic evidence, certain animals evolved to have a stomach with an additional chamber: a rumen.

In essence, here's how digestion works for ruminants, using deer as an example: deer chomps off a terminal bud of a young oak, chews it, swallows it and sends it directly to its first stomach chamber — the rumen. Hey, evolution — clever positioning: that new chamber, the rumen, is the first stop for food!

Once in the rumen, tiny but powerful microbes attack and reduce the chewed plant food to the point that it can be passed on to the other chambers for further digestion.

If you or I tried to digest that terminal bud on a young oak tree? It would not go well.

Back to evolution. The bottom line, as I understand it, is that genes can change and the changes can be beneficial, harmful or neutral. If the change is harmful, the species probably won't survive in the long term If the change is beneficial, the species will do better because of it.

Using an increasingly small part of our brain — if that is what we are doing — would not seem to bode well for the long-term survival of our species.

Unless, if time allows, the human brain someday evolves beneficially and develops that extra chamber I mentioned earlier, one that naturally produces actual thinking. Maybe this new chamber will have the psychological version of microbes — agents to reduce human reactivity and increase human deliberation, or rumination.

So who knows—far into the future some scientist may discover that humans have evolved this new chamber. If this happens, the scientist would have to come up with a name for it.

I hope she chooses LUMEN.

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