Beware Of Mind Viruses

What’s In Your Head?

I was listening to the radio the other night, on the Internet. I wasn’t sure what station it was, I was kind of flipping through the channels while I was doing other things. A song came on that I hadn’t heard in a while, “Tom Sawyer,” by Rush. The particular album cover was pretty clever, from a linguistic standpoint. The name of the album is “moving pictures” which most people would take to mean movies. In the old days they called a movie a “picture” as in “moving picture.” which is where the word “movie” comes from, the root word (verb) “to move.”

But on the album cover, it showed a bunch of guys “moving” stuff out of a house an into a moving van. What were they moving? Several paintings. So they were “moving pictures” of a different sort. The “pictures” were being move by other people, as compared to the “movie” meaning given above, the pictures themselves are moving. For those language geeks out there, the verb “move” is an intransitive verb in one example (a verb that doesn’t require an object) and a transitive verb in the other (a verb that requires an object).

Where was I? Oh yea. The song I listened to, Tom Sawyer, has a verse that says:

“Though his mind is not for rent
to any god or government
always hopeful yet discontent
he knows changes aren’t permanent
but change is”

The first line got me thinking. Mind is not for rent. What exactly does that mean? What does it mean to rent out your mind? If you rent out a room, you let somebody stay there for a certain amount of money for letting them sleep in your house every night and store their food in your fridge and use your plumbing to bath and take of their waste. Is it worth it? Usually. Most often the biggest drawback is having somebody in your house. The additional financial burden of an extra person are usually not very much, certainly not close to the rent you’d likely charge. It’s usually a good deal for somebody that has an extra room and wants to save a considerable amount of money every month. Many people make a living by buying houses and renting them out. It can be very lucrative, even despite recent real estate and financial nightmares.

Back to the song. What does it mean to rent out your mind? Take thoughts that aren’t yours, and give them residence inside your brain. This can be very helpful, but it can be equally be as dangerous and destructive. Let’s first consider some of the benefits.

Unless you want to reinvent the wheel, Euclidian geometry and certain tasks like how to drive and how to hook up your cable TV, you’re going to have to accept those thought collections or mental instructions from other people. Humans are very social creatures, and the bottom line is that almost all of our thoughts come from others. Your name, phone number, driver’s license number, most of the facts and information you know (unless you are an independently wealthy research scientist living on a island studying esoteric biology) come from others.

Basic survival information, and useful things like how to do your job right, so you can earn a steady paycheck are welcome additions to our mental house. We hope those thoughts never check out, otherwise we’d be left babbling in the corner like idiots.

But just unhelpful and potentially harmful thoughts can enter into our brain and take up residence just as easily. Most of us are carrying around baggage from childhood without even realizing it. That statement from that second grade teacher who said, “Can’t you do anything right” may still echo whenever we try something new.

That statement by that child psychologist that you may have overheard when you were four years old that said, “Girls just aren’t wired to be as good at math as boys are,” may still reverberate whenever it comes time to calculate the tip at a restaurant.

Without getting into too much detail, suffice it to say that there are a lot of factors (due to long ago evolutionary elements) that let certain thoughts slip into our brains without much resistance. Authority is one. Social proof is another. If an authority figure tells us something (like that idiot third grade teacher or that moron on TV) we are much more likely to accept it as fact without questioning it.

Social proof is another powerful convincer. If a lot of people believe something, it can be a difficult thought to resist. (Purple kool aid anyone?)

The point is that we have evolved past the point of need to follow the herd, or listening to authority figures for our every day survival. Be like Tom Sawyer, in that song by Rush. Take inventory of your brain and kick out the thoughts that are doing you more harm than good.

Your brain, and your thoughts are the most important thing that you have. When was the last time you cleaned house?

It’s time to collect the rent, and evict the freeloaders.