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?

Feeling Unnerved

From time to time we all feel a little unnerved, that can be from watching Paranormal Activity, going to new places, meeting strange people or generally not being at ease. This sense of being unnerved comes from the unfamiliar and where we might sense that our world-ordering and its sense making are somehow challenged. Much of this feeling unnerved comes from fear of a social faux pas. To walk into a room full of Rastafarians might stimulate a little fear {or dread} in some, to go into a boardroom could freak others out, man. Most people are unnerved when they are not sure that they can “control” a situation. And I can say from observation that many are freaked, big-time, by silence. They don’t much like intense concentrated listening either. The first thing many do is to try to find some common ground, when they are unnerved. They need some sense of everything being “normal” however that is supposed to be, for them.

That feeling of being unnerved is indicative of some hang-up or other. If programmes about the paranormal make you shit bricks, then you are hung-up about the paranormal. And though you may ostensibly be a rational being, you have lingering fears about ghosts, ghouls, demons and stuff like that. If I mention exorcism, that may make you ever so slightly unnerved. {Don’t worry I am not going to do a head spin and puke out of the screen at you.}

The feeling of being unnerved comes when we face the unknown, it does not have to be a big unknown, but just enough. We don’t know what we are supposed to do, so we can feel flummoxed and unsure. And in all seriousness, we cannot go around handing out uppercuts to all and sundry. If we feel unnerved then we will probably be tense and overly defensive, we may lose clarity and react instead of responding intelligently.  Many people are scared of losing face, which is something unnerving as a prospect.

The more hang-ups you have, the less freedom of choice is open to you. Most of the things that unnerve us, do so only because we have yet to understand them. Many of the things which scare us are way safer than our terror suggests, our fears are often more than a little disproportionate. Genuinely life-threatening situations are rare, at the moment, in modern western society. Though we do have many a potential Oscar winner in our midst.

If you want to ease the hang-up number density then one way is to make a list of all the things that unnerve you and then face them one by one, being sensible in your approach and starting off with the little things. The more able you are to relax, the less things you will find unnerving. If you are tense, then you will be unnerved pretty much all of the time. It is very easy to make a mountain out of a molehill!

What am I unnerved by?

Why does it unnerve me?

Am I perhaps more than a little uptight?

Approaching the Unknown

This Mark Twain quote has wisdom to it. It points at the idea of knowing where your knowledge stops, if you don’t know this your arrogance might get you into trouble. Martial arts movies are full of scenes where someone goes into a dojo, thinking they are well-hard and challenges the instructor. I have heard personal anecdotes of a similar nature in that world. Someone who makes a living in martial arts probably knows their onions, so such behaviour is a bit silly. The person making the challenge may not be aware of the limitations of their knowledge but with testicles full of spunk, they imagine they do. It is best to approach the unknown wide awake and with humility.

Many people do really stupid things like playing with Ouija boards and then are a little surprised when they very quickly get out of their depth and into trouble. In this case playing with fire is no so good. As a practised pyro, I am safer with a can of petrol and a box of matches than most. I have a fairly good, though imperfect understanding, of where that knowledge ends. I nearly always have water handy.

If you are to extend your knowledge, then it stands to reason, that you will have to approach the unknown. There will be some things that are unknowable, to you as a being, they are beyond your capacity. This approach is called sanity.

If you are to approach the unknown, then it stands to reason that the approaches or methods that work in the known, will probably fail. The tools may cease to be fit for purpose. The further you venture into the unknown, the more likely it is that the previously “tried and tested” will not work. Thus, to approach the unknown one needs new approaches.

If you like high adventure, then you might simply, full of bravado, jump into the unknown. One can get very lost in the unknown and each being has their own predilection, for adventure.

By definition the unknown lies beyond current understanding and knowledge. Having cued up approaching the unknown, I’ll return to it a little later.

World Parameters

The eponymous frog knows only his world and compares his experience solely to the confines of that world. His parameters are well radius, well depth, temperature, water level, the amount of light entering the well and food number density. He shits in his well and if he is lucky another frog of the same species, but opposite gender, might come along for him to mate with. So long as there are no frog eaters around, his world remains intact. His world is secure. To get out of the well will require some work against the gravitational force. He probably hasn’t gotten an A level in physics, so he may not understand this. But he knows that if he wants to explore beyond his parameters he must head up to that light thing at the top of the well. Beyond the lip of the well there is the unknown, which might be scary. He is bound by the well and if he wants to make a bound-free transition he must put some effort in. Since he has been in the well a long while he is an expert on the well, on the inside of his world. He knows nothing of the world outside, he has become institutionalised in his well.

This metaphor has wide application. The frog does not even know his world-view is limited and at first resists what the ocean frog tries to tell him. He simply cannot conceive of what the ocean frog recounts. The frog in the tale is a brave frog, so he goes exploring. He is a little too stuck in his belief system and thus when he sees the ocean his mind explodes, spattering brains everywhere.

Anything which lies sufficiently outside of our world parameters is hard to countenance. If we make the assumption that nothing does, we have become more than a little insular in our thinking. Many smart people become experts in one area, they can become institutionalised. There are some who would kill the ocean frog for suggesting that the world is different. The well frog although he may deem himself an able and fluid thinker, has yet to meet the ocean frog. The ocean frog threatens his world order.  The parameters of his well frog world are those of a local minimum, he has become trapped in a tiny part of a wider hypersurface.

As an exercise:

Is my own reality somewhat limited?

If something offers a different perspective how do I react?

What are the parameters of my world?

Are they sufficient?