Today, during my ophthalmic consultation a diabetic patient with advanced diabetic retinopathy, told me that she did not realized when she started to be ill about the severe long term consequences of her disease; “Oh doctor, if I was able to know at that time, I would be much better at this time; but I didn’t know at that time.”
To know is important; according to our degree of knowledge depends the way we see our life, our circumstances, our environment and so our responses to internal and external stimuli. Our life is not what happens to us, is how we see, how we interpret and how we act according to what happens to us, and all these responses are modulated by previous knowledge.
Empirical knowledge is important; it has represented the basis of the trans-generational culture
of our species for thousands of years. Recently we learned about science, and about scientific knowledge; science has told us that not all we see as true is really a valid fact. The quality of life of my diabetic patient currently could be much better if she were able years ago to understand since a scientific point of view her disease. Ignorance is not exculpatory.
Unfortunately the learning process to obtain knowledge is an exercise that requires the
practice since the early years in life, and I said “unfortunately” because it implies acting, it implies volition, and can not be achieved with a passive attitude. The nervous system works developing connections according the stimulation. A child that loses visual stimulation in one eye during the early years will develop amblyopia (untreatable low vision because of lack of stimuli); a child or an adolescent that do not face challenges (because he has a parent solving all his troubles) will not be able to face challenges during adulthood. So, the individual genetic code
determines the formation of the brain compounds, but is the stimulation the only factor that determines its connections.
So, we, all of us, have the software to know, in more or less degree, but is the act of study-learn (the learning process) what develops the neural connections. We have the muscles, but is the exercise what determines its hypertrophy. If we perform the brain-exercise we will be able to learn (the most prominent music performer needs practice); if we do not use to perform the exercise, the brain, as every muscle, decreases its interconnections and develops hypotrophy.
Never is too late. The brain as every muscle can start to learn at any age, nevertheless
with more difficulties as the age increases; just exactly like the physical exercise.
Knowledge is the way how we appreciate life and how we respond to stimuli in a given moment.
As much as the brain has connections, as much as we can take out myths from our minds, as much as we are able to inquiry our self about our sensory universe and use scientific knowledge in our daily life’s, more opportunities we will have to take adequate decisions for our selves, our environment and the ones who surround us.
Dedicated to Prof. Jorge Newton-Sànchez