Friday, July 25, 2014

Adults are the Children's Mirror

'Adults are the children's mirror,' a proverb which the Koreans hear often. In an article in Bible & Life, a  professor in the field of communications mentions in jest, when he drinks a glass of water in front of children, he has to be careful. These ideas  are not only  Asian, for  in the West we hear: 'Every man's neighbor is his looking glass'. Over a period of time we gather the wisdom of the ages and enshrine it in our proverbs.

This thinking has been  reinforced  scientifically  by the experiments of the Italian neurophysiologist G. Rizzolatti who in the  1990s experimenting with monkeys discovered that the monkeys by watching an action and performing an action activates the same part of the brain. A 'mirror neuron' in the monkey's brain is activated when the monkey grasped a peanut or when the experimenter grasped a peanut. Put simply, when the monkey did something or another person did it, the same part of the brain would be activated-- the mirror neuron.

Scientists feel the mirror neuron in humans is more developed. Not only, when they see an action performed by another person, but when they hear about the act, it will activate the mirror neuron. Moreover, it has nothing to do with the person's volition but is automatic. The meaning of this sympathetic response can be seen in our communities. Mencius(372 BC-289 BC) who knew nothing of the mirror image reminds us that when we see a child struggling in the water, the first thought is to save the child; our humaneness comes to the fore.

Knowing this we are faced with many questions. We have the mirror neuron, the need to show compassion our humaneness, why is it so rare in society? This is a natural question that must follow. If we talk only about compassion and humaneness as a part of our makeup and leave it at that, we are left with a pie in the sky idea, which forgets that just as strong is our greed and partiality. Jesus in our human history has shown us how to get rid of our greed and partiality,  and reach the love we need to activate.

This brings to mind another question. Why with one-third of the world population Christian, do we continue to have wars, oppression, genocides and all kinds of atrocities? The answer to this question is also clear. More than sympathy, hostility more than love, hate is what we express in our lives. People with vested interests are the ones naturally who would be in control of a large segment of the goings on in society. The professor recounts what Jesus did with the vested interests of those in the temple. He taught: the way you treat the least in society is the way you treat him.

In our society, the people with the authority and the money are more interested in winner-take-all approach than the compassionate approach, and  consequently, the competition that we see. In the economic system that we have made, showing  sympathy to others has been  pushed to the peripheries.

In the Sewol Ferry tragedy, we see how greed, selfishness, corruption, blinded so many before, during and after the disaster; and the way  much of the  media treated the subject. There was opposition to groups in society sympathetic in doing  away with the irregularities that prepared for the disaster. In our society, the number of  irregular workers is extremely high. We lead other countries in suicides and the numbers of hours of work, the number of births the lowest. This needs to be shown to the citizens of the country and not hide the reality. Is it not the work of evangelization to show those who take pride in a winner-take-all value system that there is another way? In conclusion, the professor wants us to look at our internal mirror and make sure it is working.

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