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Love does make the world go around; brain science weighs in

Interfaith studies suggest that one thing all faiths share in common is the golden rule, stated somewhat differently among each- ‘Do unto others what you’d have them do unto you’ – basically compassion, kindness, caring, trust, empathy. It’s a variation on Jesus’ command to love God first and love your neighbor as yourself. And increasingly, there is science to support that.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported on a study at Washington University in St. Louis on young children (age 3-6) and their parents interacting. Using MRI scans, the brain’s hippocampus was measured and the research showed that during stress, those children with nurturing mothers had larger areas than children with poor maternal nurturing.

Dr. Charles Raison, CNNhealth’s mental health expert explains that ‘having small hippocampi increases your risk for all sorts of troubles, from depression and post traumatic stress disorder to Alzheimer’s disease. If you’ve got depression, having small hippocampi predicts that you won’t respond as well to antidepressants as well as depressed people with larger hippocampi to antidepressants.’ (from a recent article titled, ‘Love key to brain development in children’.)

In fact this area predicts how one handles life’s stress and struggle. Personal memories are formed and stored here. Dr. Raison explains ‘It is also of central importance for restraining the body’s stress and inflammatory responses, both of which can induce significant damage to bodily organs and the brain if not properly reined in.’ There are hundreds of animal studies to support this. One animal study he cites measured the licking and care baby rat pups received from their mothers which changed how DNA was expressed in the hippocampus. Certainly, for those children exhibiting RAD- reactive attachment disorder, their brains were re-wired by a neglectful mother or lack of early caring. So, the body-mind-emotion-spirit connection is very real and the evidence continues to weigh in apart from moralistic edicts from one religious camp or another, who often fail to exhibit the compassion they tout.

I have wondered about the importance of resilience for those who have suffered childhood abuse. How is it that some overcome a horrific, traumatic past and some don’t? By all accounts, survivors of concentration camps would go on to become fiends, but look at the shining examples-Victor Frankl to Elie Wiesel, and locally, sculptor Alfred Tibor. Look at Oprah, who endured abuse as a child and is an incredibly successful business woman. The bottom line is that love and caring, deep nurturing DO make the world go around and there is a growing body of scientific evidence to support that. This transcends all religions and shows us how ‘G-d’ works.

Local/National Interfaith Events:

May 1st Beltain/Samhain- Wiccan/Pagan day to mark new season

May 3rd is National Day of Prayer

May 6th is Visakha Puja or the Birth of Buddha

May 17th is for Christians, Ascension Day and the 27th is Pentecost

May 27th Shavuot, in Judaism, a celebration of the 10 Commandments-Ancient tribal code of morality

May 15th-17th is a Making Room Conference at Vineyard

May 20th ‘Don’t Go to Church; Be the Church’ 8:30 am Center Pointe Church

May 29th is the Ascension of Baha’u’llah in the Baha’i tradition

Meditation for this post:

‘Considered in its full biological reality, love-that is to say, the affinity of being with being-is not peculiar to man. It is a general property of all life and as such it embraces, in its varieties and degrees, all the forms successively adopted by organized matter. In the mammals, so close to ourselves, it is easily recognized in its different modalities: sexual passion, parental instinct, social solidarity, etc. (In discussing the ‘within of things’) If there were no real internal propensity to unite, even at a prodigiously rudimentary level-indeed in the molecule itself- it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up, with us, in ‘hominised’ form. . . . we should assume its presence, at least in an inchoate form, in everything that is. . . Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come to being.’ P 264 The Phenomenon of Man by Teilhard de Chardin

Pavillon de l'Arsenal, Paris, Centre d'exposition d'urbanisme et d'architecture de Paris, vue depuis la place du Père-Teilhard-de-Chardin

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