At birth, our brain has over one hundred trillion neural connections. Almost none of these connections are myelinated (coated in fat to speed signaling), so we’re pretty much useless at defending ourselves, or even basic bodily functions. From birth to about three years of age, our environment and genetic coding not only reinforce (myelinate) connections we need on a daily basis, but unused connections are destroyed by our own brain simply because we don’t use them. This process gradually slows until our teenage years, but the truth is that our brain is shaped by what we learn from the environment around us and the people in our lives. Put in simpler terms, we are born one person, and graduate into our twenties as a person shaped by the world around us. Change any one life event, or hundreds of small observations, and we could have been a vastly different individual.
Putting the nature vs nurture argument aside, this got me thinking about how the world around us continues to shape us even after age 25 when this process slows to a crawl. What has the world set us up to be? Does the world and what we choose to focus on continue to influence who we are as an individual? And how can we know what is really us, or what is a byproduct of these external influences?
Today, we are bombarded with noise and other people’s opinions on an alarming frequency. One researcher analyzed the advertising practices of the media and estimated we are advertised to upwards of 5,000 times per day. So called experts on half formed platforms impart their knowledge to us constantly and often in contradiction to what we’ve heard just the day before. Even Facebook censors us from the opposing views we hold on to so dearly as part of our identity, stymieing or critical thinking muscles and further polarizing our opinions.
All of these reasons and more have lead me to start a purely observational experiment with N=1, me. For a period of seven days, I will create silence. No so called experts on podcasts telling me how to run my life, no movies or television portraying unrealistic relationships or conflicts, no video games providing a false sense of accomplishment, and no music to cover the beauty of my own thoughts. I’ve even chose to read only books that will stimulate thought through questions, rather than cherry picked science and stories that tell me to root for a fictional character rather than myself.
I have no idea whether my brain will prune away neurons shaped by the media, nor do I have any idea whether my brain will myelinate more of ‘me.’ At worst, it’ll be a long meditation, and at best, I might come out a new person with new habits and appreciations for life. Regardless, I have been aching for an adventure and extreme experience, and the resistance I’ve heard via social media reinforces my resolve to accomplish the task.
Follow along via this blog, and my YouTube channel (search for Succeed With Omid) to see whether I lose my mind, or become a modern day Yoda.