Intellect Only Goes So Far

You may have noticed that today has been much more of a “Feeling” day on the blog. Yet one cannot be all Feeling or all Thinking and be a rounded being. The idea is to develop at least some ambidextrous capability. Worshipping one over the other is not a good thing. If we make our intellect into something it is not we run a very real risk of skewing. Say we like things of intellect and what I have termed concrete mind, our world can become angular and barren, because we focus there alone. If we get overly mushy and sentimental we are not going to get anything done. Back when I used to do these transferable skills courses there was much suspicion amongst the “smart”, obviously worldly-wise, Ph.D. students, that I was some kind of Tree Hugger. In fact, I used to get this joke in early. Irrespective of my undying love of all things arboreal, I do have some intellectual capacity. Which was forgotten.

I have found that over reliance on intellect, is a cul-de-sac. One needs to develop intuition and feeling. If you are in a dark room, of unknown lay out, how do you get around? You have to feel your way in the dark. It is by feeling that we can enter the unknown and leave the known which we have already mapped out by intellect. We may get hunches which are intuitive, and we may get a kind of feeling which is different to hunches, the feeling may be a kind of excitement. When we get scared our intellect can crap out, it not much use when we are near a dying man in a hospital bed. Intellect only goes so far. I doubt it will help us as we each approach our own death. There is no solace in pure intellect. If you are one-dimensional you will crap out around anything emotive, around anything which has a feeling component. You might poo-poo it and make like Sheldon or Spock. If these are your ideal archetypes of human beings, then that is a bit limited. What will you do when you are in the birthing pool with a pregnant woman, puffing on gas and air?

If you are unpractised and uncomfortable with feelings, then you have a fundamental strategic weakness. You will avoid situations where these are activated. Perhaps you might hide high up in the ivory tower of intellect, thinking you know-it-all. Only you don’t. In reality you are demonstrating a kind of cowardice. There is a solution, and that is to develop your potential more broadly. Lacking confidence in your ability to handle feelings, you will be insecure. You may doubt your ability to maintain composure and control, when things start to get real and not theoretical. You might struggle to wait in Accident and Emergency with someone who has taken an overdose.

Clearly from what I have said here I must be a touchy-feely-homosexual-tree-hugging-bean-bag-sitting-hippie. But I am not, I have written a business plan that raised £5million start up funds. We tend to be prejudiced against that which we do not know and that which we are afraid of. People can be very afraid of their feelings. They may know this at an intellectual level, they may know that this is a weakness and be insecure about it. They may pretend, but the only person they are kidding is themselves. The intellectual understanding only goes so far, in order to overcome such a weakness, one has to do something about it. Or sit forever braiding your hair at the top of the ivory tower of intellect hoping that by magic someone might come along and free you. Life however, isn’t a fairy-tale.

Having cued this up:

Is this bloke right, am I a bit cowardly about acknowledging my own feelings?

If I did this and came out of the ivory tower of intellect, might my life be richer and more fulfilling?

With practise would I stop being quite so insecure?

Would I stop having such a gaping strategic weakness in my being?

Underlying Atmospheres

Have you ever had the feeling when you walk into a room and it all seems relatively normal to the eye, but yet you pick up an underlying atmosphere, a kind of mood pervading?

I think most of us have. These atmospheres are hard to quantify yet we feel them. People put on a show in an attempt to hide the atmosphere, sometimes this can be cut with a knife. These atmospheres tend not to be positive, though we can sense the mirth of shared joke underneath when people are meant to be serious. Someone says something funny and it lingers say when a teacher walks into the room. One can sense the echo of an argument, the tension of a highly politicized environment, or a kind of depression behind a brave face. There is a “don’t mention the X “, in some cases, and conflict can leave behind an almost tangible residue. If people have been “naughty” that too leaves an atmosphere. And of course, if someone has been smoking skunk, that is pretty easy to smell. At face value you may be offered a glass of wine, yet the atmosphere suggests it is a poisoned chalice. One notices these atmospheres, in houses, in bars, in institutions and meeting rooms. Those accustomed to the atmosphere may no longer be sensitive to it, for them it is normal. These atmospheres can have an unspoken or a “we don’t talk about that” theme. Secrets always leave an atmosphere. The absence of someone who might otherwise be there, leaves a ghost. The unresolved always leaves an atmosphere.

People can think they have pulled it off and acted normal. One cannot be sure what the hell is going on, when one walks into a room, but one senses something is off. There is something lurking under the surface. It is easy then to interact solely with the face value and never inquire about what one senses. One joins in with the charade. It can be that people simply need to recover their composure or that something else is going on. It is hard to say, but the senses remember the intangible, the mentioning of which might seem foolish and few like to risk losing face. These intangibles can sometimes be red flag warning signs.

Having cued this up:

Do I notice the underlying atmospheres?

Have I ever ignored these because I was too “polite” to mention them?

Have I ever gotten myself into a difficult situation by ignoring what my senses tell me?

Do I favour the face value over my intuition?

If so, why?

Wanting to be Right

Being right too soon is socially unacceptable.

Robert A. Heinlein

The previous quotation from an esoteric French manuscript, when I first read it, resonated with me. It still does. Sometimes words in another language can do this, better.

Many people want to be right, whatever that means. They want to “win” the argument, it is a compulsion, and some set much stock on this “being right” thing. It is odd. When they are wrong they don’t usually suffer physical plane death, they may be embarrassed. You can observe when someone is caught in the “I am right” loop, it iterates, and it iterates.

One of the social problems of intuition stems from seeing things too soon. Should you mention them, the “ I am right” do loop starts to execute in the minds of those obsessed by “being right”. Maybe some time later they go, at least if only to themselves, “Alan was right after all”. Rarely if ever has anyone actually said this to me. To do so would be to lose face.

To give an example of this at work. When I was a child in a small mines’ school in outback Australia, not doing so well in school because of my lousy handwriting, it lost marks, a babysitter asked me; “who is the brainiest in your class?”. I told them, “me”. They later told another child in my class what I had said. It got around school and I was tormented as a result. To my knowledge nobody else subsequently taught at a world top ten university from that class. I was, in this context, right too soon.

Similar episodes have played out on numerous occasions subsequently. People are convinced they are right, I say something to the contrary and some form of social penalty for me, follows. Often, though not always, that which I have intuited subsequently falls true. It is no wonder that I keep quiet and became more introverted. When someone is hell-bent on being right they lose auditory capability and the ability to assimilate anything which does not coincide exactly with whatever it is they are “right” about. That “I must win the argument” attitude is strong even if it means them effectively going; “la-la-la-la not listening”, like a child in the playground, metaphorically speaking.

There is no better sure-fire way of offending an already omniscient being than saying something which does not align exactly with their omniscience. I have seen this play out many times. I have something useful to add, stupidly I do so, offence and retribution follows. It is partially because of such dramas, that I find myself here.

A warrior has nothing to defend.

Most people have a huge bunch of stuff, rafts of opinions and their status as an “expert” to defend. Even if this means being close minded. Face and status get in the way.

I have yet to find away around this other than to hold my tongue. I can spot someone who is “wanting to be right” a mile off, these days. Have a look around you, can you recognise such as these? Are you one yourself? In the final analysis does “wanting to be right” bring equanimity, peace or freedom? What do you think? Is it possible to transcend this urge, this compulsion of, “wanting to be right”?

Beyond Intellect

Before I get into this I am going to cue up “the closet”, so to speak. In the recent issue of Physics World, a gentleman talks about the LGBT+ community and how it experiences well, the Physics World. He says that having to be in the closet is so very draining and speculates that Ettore Majorana may have had at least leanings towards homosexuality, and that the conflict that this caused in him might have contributed to his disappearance. He mentions the coerced chemical castration of Alan Turing. The LGBT+ community has fought long and hard to work at the removal of prejudice and reduce the perceived need to be in the closet at work. There is another closet, the religious or spiritual closet and within science many are in it. To talk about faith in the “exact” sciences is not easy and can provoke evangelical arguments against. {Showing off and holding court are not uncommon} We may have the closet Christian, the closet Buddhist etc. and woe betide anyone who has a non-mainstream belief system, they are whacko city Arizona. Religion, faith and the like are largely taboo in the world of physical sciences, which causes closeted behaviour. As such the renaissance man or woman or transgender being is probably quite rare and if they exist you would only find them so far at the back of the wardrobe as to be in Narnia.

Having said the above I am going to move into topic, beyond intellect. For in many cases it is beyond intellect where religious or mystical experience can be found; such things are not tractable to intellect, intellectual classification or exact definition. People can seek definition so as to argue about it on home turf, in intellect and with rational mind. Rational has the root ratio, which is a comparison. Rational mind is comparative, and it can only go with any applicability where there are things to compare to. Where the concrete runs out, it is stymied. Where the unknown begins, it is lost.

I think it reasonable to assert that my intellect is pretty good, though many will have better. I can say with honesty that I have encountered many things which my intellect cannot grasp and to which I can put no words. These “things” are to be found in what might be called the “realm” of intuition. I somehow know. So, in this blog we have the face value which may or may not be grasped by intellect and behind the words there is much in intuitive space, the space of patterns and connections, of qualities and nuance. Believe it or not the flow of this blog is connected in my intuitive space, nothing is here just to be random.

It has been my experience in teaching science A levels that a fair proportion of my students have intuitive mind. For them it is a great relief to speak with someone who shares this, what we have to do next is to get them marks. Having had some acknowledgement for their abilities and the fact that they are not stupid, they can go about the business of translating so as to pass exams. They have been largely discouraged and have become closeted about their intuitions, these are not so easily marked and the level of over prescription in expected answers can ruin their chances, in life.  It is a game called pass your exams and it has little or nothing to do with innate conceptual ability. This carries on into university, whilst many can do the maths of the Schrödinger equation, that is about as far as it goes. People can pass exams without understanding. This latter example is tractable to intellect, but the deeper nuances are in intuition, it is there where understanding and conceptualization takes place. Here the ability to form images, the imagination, is important. I can still imagine wave packets bouncing off potential energy walls in three dimensions, even now, I can imagine the temporal evolution in my mind’s eye.

This intuition is where human mind needs to go to as we as a species evolve. We cannot be obsessed with data and facts to the extent that we forget to picture and imagine.

The realms of nuances, images, symbols, hints, connections and interconnectivity are rich beyond words. That is, they cannot always be verbalized. But when one intuitive minded person shares with another there can be at least a partial meeting of minds, the pictures somehow transfer and are shared. When someone is on the same wavelength as you, there is a mind to mind thing going on.

I am not saying get rid of intellect, I am suggesting extending into intuition. There is a danger of making intellectual comprehension and reason into a kind of omniscience. These are yardsticks and can only go so far and no further. If one is to be a unified being, heading towards freedom, then one needs to incorporate intuition.