When we eat food, hopefully, our bodies digest it. This process starts in our mouths. As the food gets to the stomach, stomach juices/acid gets to work. However, real digestion starts in our intestines. Once we are done digesting what we need, we dispose of the rest. Digesting poisonous or unhealthy food has negative consequences and should be avoided. Are there informational and experiential parallels?
There are stages of digestion. It is not finished when our taste buds can no longer enjoy it! There’s a lot more that goes on! Look at what each organ in the body does in the process (adapted from the NIH Website):
- Mouth: Both chewing and the saliva make it easier for the food to get to the stomach.
- Esophagus: After you swallow, the food is pushed down through this to get to your stomach.
- Stomach: Glands in your stomach make stomach acid and enzymes.
- Pancreas: Makes a digestive juice that breaks down carbs, fats, and proteins in the small intestine.
- Liver: Makes a digestive juice that breaks down fats and some vitamins in the small intestine.
- Gallbladder: Stores some “liver juice” between meals.
- Small intestine: Uses digestive juices, bacteria-created enzymes, and water to complete the breakdown of proteins, carbs, and fats.
- Large intestine: Bacteria and water help break down remaining nutrients, and stores stool until a bowel movement.
Notice a few things:
- The mouth only judges “tasty” or “yucky”. Not nutritional value!
- The process is not finished with the mouth. Instead, it mostly prepares the food for digestion.
- It’s not the stomach that does most of the work, it’s the intestines.
- Muscles in the “hollow organs” (mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines) move the food through. In other words, it takes effort to finish the digestion!
- Three “solid organs” (pancreas, liver, and gall bladder) provide or store juices used in the small intestine.
- There is always stuff that the body didn’t use.
Some people think that when they read a headline or a tweet that they know all they need to know on a subject. They believe they are now “informed” and are done digesting the information. However, whether their eyes saw it, their ears heard it, or the mouth tasted it, NOTHING has really been digested. They may have a valid reaction to the taste, but they haven’t digested a thing! I have often dismissed a headline or tweet simply because I did not like it, just like I did when my mother wanted me to eat my greens!
“If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you are misinformed”– Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain)
The next critical step to digesting information is to allow it to “sink in” so that real digestion follows. It takes “muscles” to do that, and different muscles are needed throughout the whole process. Keep using those muscles! I did this in the classroom, mainly because “taking a class again” was frowned upon, and advancing to the next class was “expected”.
Once digestion is allowed to start, (patience and effort!) it is a process that can’t be done all at once. Some of the information is stored while some is being digested. Not everything is digested at once! It is not a quick process, done in one sitting. It takes a lot of internal (automatic!) muscle movement, a lot of digestive juices, and time.
A great example of this is the story titled “The Prodigal Son”. That title was added by Bible translators to organize passages in scripture. Unfortunately, most people think the story is about the son who left. They miss the part that it’s really about how the father responds to both sons who only want what he can give them. One is self-righteous while the other is pleasure-seeking. If you never “digest” the story, you will never know the deeper truths in it!
We have all heard how it is with muscles, “use or lose”. This has been very true for me. Back in the day, when on Active Duty in the Navy, I had to take Physical Fitness tests regularly. I gave them 75 pushups every time I was tested. That was long ago. Since back surgery and arthritis have limited my exercising, all I could do the other day was 5 pushups! I have not used those muscles in at least 10 years, and I have lost them.
With our digestive system consuming food several times a day, those muscles are constantly being used. They are very experienced at doing what they do, they have done it our whole lives!
I’m not sure that many people today have kept their “information digestive system” muscles as active. Those muscles have atrophied and forgotten how to do their job. They see a tweet about a person’s death and want to start a revolt. All they have had is a “bad taste in their mouth”. (Yes, as I child I spit out a lot of food, upsetting my mother if she caught me.) It’s what children do.
Adults, people who have kept their information-digestion system working, don’t overreact to bad news, or even good news. They know, from experience, that there’s always more to the story. Headlines, tweets, and short news blurbs are only the first small bite (or small byte!) of what can be digested for those who are ready to digest.
The same goes for “digesting” our experiences. Some people go and repeat the experiences even if they had negative consequences because the experience “tasted good”! (I love ice cream, Oreos, and other cookies!) Some people rarely reflect on what happened, why it happened, what to learn from it, what good was in it, what was not good in it. Nothing gets digested and nothing is learned.
In many ways I love being a child, and in many ways, I don’t want to be one anymore! How about you?
Please comment and/or respond to what you heard inside of you as you read this! Let’s share!