Monday, August 15, 2016

Thinking, Feeling, and Paths to Wisdom

I once heard a psychiatrist, who was a baby boomer, tell me that when he was at the university there were people on acid running around claiming to have insights but being unable to articulate them.

I am not into drugs, but I have all sorts of insights. And I do know how to articulate them.

One claim by some followers of Eastern religion is that spiritual truth is “inexpressible.” I doubt that claim. I believe that anything is expressible, if you are good enough at expressing.

Having screwy brain chemistry or brain structure can actually help in that regard. Dostoyevsky, who was an epileptic, was able to express amazing insight and wisdom. One thing that may have helped is that in epilepsy there is heightened contact between the left brain and the right brain, allowing what is accessible through intuition to become expressed in reason and in speech. I know a poet who is an epileptic, and his work is amazingly profound. And there have been any number of people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, or who went insane, who have contributed everything from great philosophy (such as Nietzsche) to great inventions (such as Thomas Edison and John Nash) to great art and literature (such as many, many others).

I have been with a woman who was a brilliant visual artist who was expressing very profound themes in her art. I picked up on the idea behind her artwork and put it into writing. The result was a poetry book ( that has been well-received by many. The themes that she expressed in art, I expressed in word. And the outcome made me the talk of the town in the DC poetry scene.

Sometimes it is quite difficult to express ideas that are different from what one has been taught. One has to suspend judgment and reason and let the feeling or the intuition take over. Making sense – and reason – of it comes later. In the interim, you are confused, even possibly insane. In the end, you have said something meaningful.

Rationalism sees reason and scientific inquiry as path to wisdom, and romanticism sees feeling and intuition as path to wisdom. Both can be that; both can also go badly astray. But when you practice both thinking and feeling, you give each side the input from the other side. This creates a fuller picture and balances out the other side's capacity for wrongful activity. As such, it leads to wisdom faster – and with fewer errors - than through either thinking or feeling acting alone.

Combining the rational and the intuitive creates a fuller, more integrated, picture, and it does so faster than either modality acting alone. People should be taught both to think and to feel. And then they should be taught to synthesize both, creating a more complete understanding and doing so faster than can be done either through feeling or through thinking by itself.


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