When I was in college my personal food pyramid was built on a base of Coke and Krispy Kreme Donuts. I managed to stay not fat and not dead because God gave me a decent metabolism. In the years since then I have lost that metabolism but gained a wife who has taught me a curriculum’s worth about eating a healthy and balanced diet, about mixing healthy proteins with an abundance of fresh foods. As a result I am healthier now than I have been in years.
In this way, the mind is no different from the body. Too often we feed our minds with rubbish – intellectual donuts and coke. This might be pulp novels, gossip magazines, reality television shows, shock-comedy, poorly written or argued works, or simply those books and articles that propagate untruth. When we consume this type of material in quantity our minds become fat and sluggish. They gravitate only toward what is easy for them to handle and digest not realizing the damage that is being caused. The mental processing systems will be short-circuited as the arteries of the mind become coated with the plaque of anti-intellectualism and untrue thinking.
Just as the body needs a variety of nutrients to maintain health so too does the mind. It needs multiple genres to increase our ability to process information in different forms. Good writing is whole food for the minds; bad writing is bologna and McNuggets. Most of all, though, the mind needs truth. A steady diet of faulty worldviews, incorrect assumptions, and blatant vainglory will do the same for your mind as a steady diet of coke, donuts, and cheeseburgers do for your body.
Thankfully the mind has an almost infinitely greater ability to metabolize material than does the body. The body absorbs whatever it your put in it for good or ill meaning we must be vigilantly selective in what we ingest, and in the selectivity we rule out an enormous number of food possibilities for the sake of health. The mind, on the other hand, can metabolize a massive number of genres, mediums, and forms. What is more, it can be trained over time to successfully digest an ever-increasing number of these, unlike the body for which food is food no matter what. Because of this the balanced diet looks different for the mind than for the body. Over time, in seeking to feed the mind healthily you will find that you know how to absorb certain things that you couldn’t previously, so your balanced mental diet increases in variety and enjoyment the more you seek to faithfully feed it.
Finally, though, we must remember that this ability to metabolize all sort of mental material is a risk and a benefit. The body gives clear symptoms when we have consumed exorbitant amounts of unhealthy food – weight gain, energy loss, headache, digestive issues, etc. The mind is subtler because it isn’t tangible. Its weight gain and digestive issues are much less visible but even more dangerous. And so, in spite of our ability to process enormous varieties and quantities of mental material, we must be doubly vigilant to keep non-nutritious material from becoming the substance of our intellectual diet. Yes, it can be consumed, but it must be done so as part of a balanced diet of truth and craftsmanship.