From cerebral facts to visceral faith
by Jesse Hove
In the summer of 1963, 250,000 people showed up at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak. No invitations were sent out, and there was no Facebook event. Yet, a quarter of a million people showed up that day.
King wasn’t the only great speaker at the time, and was far from the only person to suffer in a pre-civil-rights America. A lot of his ideas were not brilliant and they lacked the organizational structure to work as functional policies. And yet he inspired people.
Our universities and secular society can at times tend to focus on what we do and how we do it, but shy away from why we do it. Some people even become hostile when we express our Why in the public sphere. Our deeply held Why is simply not polite dinner conversation.
Yet, regardless of your worldview, it is our deeply held beliefs and values that shape us and change us. What we do and how we do it is simply the result of what we believe. If you examine a cross section of our brains you will see an interesting dichotomy.
Our neocortex is responsible for all our rational and analytical thought. It is also responsible for our development of language. Our limbic brain system is responsible for all of our feelings like trust and loyalty. It is also responsible for all human behaviour, all decision-making, and it has no capacity for language.
When we communicate from the neocortex we can learn all types of interesting facts and figures, but it does not drive behaviour. When we communicate from the limbic system through the cortex, we are simply rationalizing what our soul is telling us. This is where the idea of making a gut decision comes from.
How many times have you tried to make a decision based on facts and figures, but you knew something about it just didn’t feel right? This is because the part of the brain that controls decision-making doesn’t control language, so the best we can come up with is, “it just doesn’t feel right.” Sometimes we say we are following our heart or we are following our soul, but what we are following is our limbic system.
Martin Luther King didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America, he told people what he believed. I believe, I believe, I believe, he told people. Communities all over America took his cause and they made it their own. They created structures to get the word out, and people came to see him. They didn’t go because King had all the right answers, they went because of what they believed America should be.
King believed that there are two types of laws in this world, those that are made by a higher authority, and those that are made by man. Not until these two laws are consistent with one another did King feel we would live in a just world. The Civil Rights movement was not King’s ultimate cause so much as it worked with his deeply held beliefs about who the sacred is.
This is what the Mount Royal Interfaith Interaction group is attempting to explore and celebrate, from atheists, to Muslims, to Hindus, to Christians. We are exploring what one another believe in the very core of our being. Not surprisingly, we have found common dreams shared amongst the group.
We all dream of a world where those who have been abandoned by their family, or are born without a family, will no longer be treated like lower-class citizens, but will be given the resources to live a life of dignity, respect and hope. If you share our dream, keep your eyes open for our balloon fundraiser starting the week of Jan. 17. We will be selling balloons for a toonie with the proceeds going towards orphans throughout the world. We will also continue to meet once a week throughout the semester with all different types of worldviews welcome.