Assimilation and Regurgitation

16 05 2009

While it is true that you are what you eat, it is not true that a person who eats strictly beef will become a bull.  Every ounce of muscle on your body existed at one time as the flesh of some other animal, mostly, and to a lesser extent the flesh of a plant.  Vegetarians can claim exception to this.  This meat that we eat does not retain its original form when we incorporate it into ourselves.  People are well aware of this on the macroscopic level, that one does not simply take a side of beef and slap it onto one’s shoulder to increase the volume of that muscle.  People seem less aware of this principle on the biochemical level.  Every now and then I hear about how some food or supplement is supposed to be good for me because it contains some necessary enzyme.  It plays heavily on ignorance.  Enzymes (not to be confused with coenzymes) are molecular machines, working to perform precise functions, and they are tightly controlled by hormones and other enzymes to keep them from performing those functions too well, too weakly, at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and so on.  Survival depends on these things doing exactly what they were intended to do.  They exist in abundance within and without the cell.  Everything that a living thing does happens as the result of one or more enzymes.  All actions, even life itself, are the work of enzymes. 

 A slab of steak is loaded with enzymes, but these were made by the beef, for the beef.  If our bodies were to simply accept them in their native form, attempting to use them as the animal did, we would, most likely, die.  If you cut your shoulder open and inserted a steak, you’d be left with a festering, rotting wound.  It doesn’t belong there.  If you break it down into its constituent enzymes and insert it into your body, it would also not belong there.  The material must be broken down into its most basic form before it can be used to construct a proper human body.  It must be chewed and fully digested, assimilated and then reconstructed to fit seamlessly into the human form.  Anything that doesn’t get fully digested ends up in the toilet.  Without full processing, it does not get absorbed.

 My organic chemistry professor, years ago, stressed repeatedly the importance of understanding over knowledge.  He gave one example of a chemical reaction in class, but he used a different example in the test.  Without understanding, a person could not make the mental jump from one example to another.  I remember my classmates using flashcards to memorize all of the different chemical reactions.  Everyone who studied this way did very badly on the test.  I heard someone complaining that the reaction mentioned in the test was not mentioned in class or in any of the texts.  The reaction wasn’t mentioned, but the underlying principle was addressed extensively.  It was explained in terms of other molecules and other reactions.  In a sense, logic trumped memorization.  Flash cards did not yield problem solving skills.  If anything, they interfered.  Understanding came from breaking down the examples to their constituent principles, and using those principles to reconstruct an understanding of different reactions in different situations.  If I learned a concept using acetate as an example, then I had better be prepared for similar reactions where acetate is not even involved.  The test question might make no mention of acetate, but it might require the use of the same principle reaction.

 Digestion is key.  Everything must be broken down into fundamental principles and then reconstructed to fit our own situation.

 Similarly, many Christians rely heavily upon memorization of scripture.  Those who do are still faring better than most “Bible-believing” Christians, who never read the Bible.  However, walking around with memorized verses is one step up from walking around with a Bible under one arm.  We treat scripture like a talisman.  If ever we meet a demon or some monster in the dark, we’ll be ready to show him our Bible and quote our verses.  Yet, anyone can quote verses but have a godless heart.  My aunt was taken in by a scripture-quoting gigolo.  My wife received a sales-pitch from a scripture-quoting scam artist.  I see people online trying to impress other Christians with their ever-ready employment of relevant Bible verses, as though a person couldn’t simply copy and paste verses at will from an online concordance.  It’s very easy, really.  One hardly needs to have a biblical view of their own on a subject these days.  If someone gives you a question, then you give them a Bible verse.  If they question it, then you shrug your shoulders and say, “It’s in the Bible.”  Do you hide behind a mask of papier-mâché,  made from pages of the Bible?

 I’ve seen bloggers fill an entire post with a quote from an online news source.  At the end of this, they post one or two sentences of their own opinion.  Wholesale quotes of any source at all amount to nothing but a regurgitation of information.  It comes out in smaller pieces, but it remains distinctly identifiable for what it was.  I am not impressed with academic vomit.  I only care about the condition of a person’s mind that leads to the construction of his own original thoughts.  The essential ideas can be borrowed,  but they should be digested, assimilated and then synthesized to fit the exact situation at hand.  Anything less is not real understanding.

 The Bible says nothing on abortion.  The word does not exist anywhere in there.  No quote will suffice.  However, the concepts necessary to make a judgment in the matter are spoken plainly in the Bible.  I know the biblical stance on the matter, because I understand the underlying principles.

 The Bible makes a huge list of sexual sins.  At first glance, the list appears to be exhaustive.  However, I’m sure that there are highly creative people in the world who can invent myriad ways to gratify themselves without ever once violating a stated restriction in the Bible.  Does that make it acceptable to God?  Probably not.  If we rely strictly on quotes, then we leave room for loopholes.  If we give no care to the underlying spirit of the scripture, then it is only because we do not love it enough to swallow it, digest it and incorporate it into everything that we are.

 This is not to say that we should not quote scripture.  This is to say that the commentary that we place before and after the scripture should be just as laden with the very same principles that gave rise to the scripture, itself.  In truth, our words hold the potential to be even more relevant than the scripture, itself.  Before you stone me, hear me out.  Paul wrote his epistles to other people in another place at another time.  He wasn’t writing to us, but everything he said is useful for learning and developing a sound theology.  It is this theology that must be used to make assessments of our current situation.  We must use this theology to make statements regarding the world around us.  Scripture is a toolbox for building who we are and designing what we do.  Don’t hand me a pile of tools and expect me to be impressed with your handiwork.

 Let your theology be made manifest in all that you say.  Take ownership of your own words, instead of hiding behind someone else’s.  If you really believe the scriptures, then they will naturally slip into the words you use, without really trying.  They may not look like the original text, but the intent of the verses should be there all the same.

 Walking around with chapter and verse dangling from my phrases is like leaving the price tag attached to my clothes, like I haven’t broken them in, and I’m thinking of returning them for a refund.

peacocksig

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