Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 5 August 2012





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Large hearts and small minds

As a species, we are known for our big hearts, our ability to empathise, to sense the emotions of our forefathers, our genetic fore-bearers. In general, we are quite a tremendous evolution in our own right. We have complex brains that can hold vast repository of knowledge, and hence ought to be more intelligent, perceptive creatures, than whales or dolphins are; and be like what humans are intended to be: possessors of infinite wisdom, compassion, and a generous heart with noble minds.

Although we are blessed with the ability to have large hearts and broad minds; for the most part, many of us seem limited or at least conflicted in deploying both talents at the same time. It seems that we are often polarised, seem to think that we have to choose between compassion and optimism on the one hand, and wisdom and realism on the other. We end up choosing sides and often lose the truth in the process; or obfuscate it, if we are aware of it - the truth. We forget that it is our responsibility, our birthright, our heritage, to have large hearts, virtuous and noble minds.


Mind is the aggregate of all conscious and unconscious processes originating in and associated with the brain, especially those pertaining to cognition, intelligence, and intellect. The mind includes all the powers of sentient being apart from the physical factors in bodily faculties and activities. Memory, opinion, desire, mental disposition, intellectual power, sanity; they all originate in the mind. Mind is where the person is; and, mind is the person. However, the question arises as to which types of being are capable of having minds, for example whether mind is exclusive to humans, possessed also by some or all animals, by all living things, or whether mind can also be a property of some types of man-made machines. The answer may be long in coming. Mind, is linked to the spirit of intelligence pervading the universe, as opposed to matter.

In Christian Science, it relates to God. The faculty of conception, perception, and notion; or cognition and intellect, as opposed to the will and emotions, emerge in the mind. Whatever its relation to the physical body, it is generally agreed that mind is that which enables a being to have subjective awareness and intentionality towards their environment, to perceive and respond to stimuliwith some kind of agency, and to have a consciousness, including thinking and feeling. A person regarded as having intellect, should by nature, have a generous heart, and a cultivated and noble mind.

Still for all, conventionally and customarily, some people hit an evolutionary dead end when it comes to further development of intellectual capabilities, improvement of the mind. They are plagued with relatively small, immature, brains; and an inability to pass down cultural memoirs and human traits - a necessity for socio-cultural evolution of the species. Instead of growing in wisdom; reaching for higher spirit; refining the nature; and cultivating a noble mind which is internally seeking the heights within; and learning to look at evolution with affection; we seem to have set in motion the process of dichotomy of the species. A course that is sure to lead humans into a superior and inferior kind - those with large hearts and elevated minds; and those with either big or small hearts, but definitely with a shrunken head. A forensic anthropologist recently completed her analysis of an alleged shrunken head owned by the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History in the USA. It was supposedly purchased somewhere in the 19th century in Ecuador, but its authenticity has long been disputed. No more: It seems to be real.


Shrunken heads were the product of warring tribes of the upper Amazon region. They believed, and were convinced, that the avenging soul of the enemy could be confined to, and within, his shrunken head; and then, it could be ceremonially dismissed. This way, the victors could feel safe against the spiritual forces that might retaliate. They would cut off the head of an enemy, slit the back of the head, remove the skull, and shrink the skin.

They would then fill the remaining small head with stuffing and carry it around on a pole or string until its powers were gone. Almost an identical practice was followed by the head-hunters of Borneo, called the Dayaks; whose culture and lifestyle I had the good fortune to study first hand, living amongst them to make a documentary for the Government of Brunei. Makes me wonder whose head was smaller, the shrinker or the shrunken!

We have mostly left behind those primitive and violent ways; but in their place, we continue to show our small-headedness by seeking to diminish other people, created in the image of ourselves.

The impulse to make scapegoats of others is alive and well. Whenever we blame others for the failures or disappointments of our own lives to make ourselves feel better at their expense, we are resorting to shrunken-head tactics that defile our humanity as well as theirs. Hate crimes are not acts committed against individuals because of relationships gone awry between the victim and the victimiser; they are classless acts committed against a class of people. The injury is not localised, but generalised. The point is that a whole race of people be humiliated. Jesus said, "You have heard it said 'Love your neighbour, and hate your enemy,' but I say unto you, 'Love your enemy, and pray for those who persecute you".

The only way to stop the cycle of violence is to retaliate with love. Only a generous and loving heart, and a developed mind, can cure shrunken-headedness.


Let us leave the stage of elementary teachings, and go on toward maturity. Let us all resolve to be as Saint Paul put it: "we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming". Let us, instead, speaking the truth, and with love in all things, grow up into people who have a head; and not become a shrunken head.

See you this day next week. Until then, keep thinking; keep laughing. Life is mostly about these two activities.

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