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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

When Logic Fails You

When Logic Fails You

Tonight I meet with a young Chinese male student. He is an undergraduate student and his concern is should he go for further studies and get a master’s degree or should he go to work. He would have been relieved if I could have given him an answer that was well supported – he desperately wanted something to believe in. Of course I could not (and did not attempt) to give him the answer he so desperately wanted. From a logical standpoint (or a business standpoint) you can use a cost / benefit analysis to decide. If it is a business then you decide based on which path will bring in the most money. Other considerations are secondary. Happiness is not a factor, marriage is not a factor, children are not factors – money is the only way to decide. But we are not a business we are a human. Now, suddenly other factors come in like happiness, like marriage, like children and so many other less tangible, less concrete things. Suddenly the cost / benefit analysis becomes extremely hard to see, let alone analyze with logic. And since happiness is the thing we often seek most it becomes the deciding factor of “right” or “wrong” decisions.

Next, I think, one must accept the fact that there is no “right” or “wrong” decision here. It depends on the individual and that brings up the question of what is an individual. As it turns out there are certain material or physical needs that must be met, but we can assume that as a university student those basic needs will be covered. He will get a job at some point and he will have enough money to live. But we as humans have this driving desire to make the “right” decision. He also stated that (he lacks “safety” in his heart) meaning he does not believe in his ability to decide the right thing. He wanted me, as a teacher, to tell him the right answer, so he could memorize it, take the exam and pass it without further pain. But this is an area where teachers should not go. This is an area where the student must walk alone. He or she must make the decision and pay the price.

I think, as an elderly person (67 at the time of writing this) I should say that all roads can lead you to your ultimate goal. You must accept this ambiguity of life. You must accept that there are some things that you will not know and it probable does not matter if this young man chooses work or further studies. I will repeat this, it probable does not matter if he chooses work or further studies! But he feels it does matter. Yet his logic fails him. He can’t decide with his mind and (in this case) he does not trust his heart or his emotions. So if it does not matter, you flip a coin and go on with life.

But, in this case, as much as he does not trust his heart, his heart is telling him this does matter. Now, we enter a discussion of just what is this “heart” we speak of. Let me here equate a few words:

  • heart,
  • soul,
  • God’s will,
  • the subconscious
  • and some other words that you, the reader, might think of.

None of these things can be “known” in the way we know and accept that two plus two is four. This world-wide accepted fact is declarative knowledge. It is not cultural anymore, it accepted in every country in the world. (This is also known as descriptive knowledge or propositional knowledge.) You can take an exam and we all can agree that 2 + 2 = 4. There is no ambiguity. But this declarative knowledge might help us with a cost / benefit analysis in a business where money is the objective, but it cannot help us much when the objective is happiness and we really don’t know what makes us happy or unhappy. If we could know all, if we could see from an omnipotent perspective, if we could see all of our life and then decide, maybe it would be easy. But we cannot! But we feel there is something that should tell us. We believe there is some way to know and we know it is not about logic. Now, it comes down to the nature of that belief that we feel – but that is beyond the scope of these few words. So we cannot be sure, we don’t know what is heart, soul, God’s will or the subconscious. But can we test our decision in some way? Can we test this decision against something that we do not know? I think we can.

Before I explain the “how”, I want to tell you this young man’s reaction to my suggestion. He said (politely), “I think the suggestion is a bit ridiculous!” I replied then go back to your logic and just decide. But he knows that the suggestion has at least some little truth embedded in it but it requires faith or at least “suspension of disbelief”. But these were difficult for him, so I said good night, came home and wrote this.

So what is the suggestion? First, write the two alternatives on small pieces of paper. Fold them up and put them in the palm of your hand and walk to your nearest friend and ask him or her to choose one. Throw the other paper away. Believe that your fate has been sealed. Put the chosen decision in your pocket and walk away. This is your decision for one week. During the next week, you eat, sleep, walk, sing and day-dream about that decision. You take it into your mind and into your heart. You force yourself to believe this is your path, your destiny. You do this for one whole week. But in the process you notice what is going on. You try to pay attention to your dreams (if you can). You pay attention to your mood and so on. Then, the next week you have a little chat with yourself and you say, “You know what, I have changed my mind. I want to go down the other path.” And then, for the next week you eat, sleep, walk, sing and day-dream about the results and your future life based on that decision. But now with this new decision you also notice your dreams, you notice your mood, your feelings and so on. For most people, I firmly believe your heart, your subconscious, the Source of your faith, your soul or however you understand the reality of what you are – that thing, that entity, that part of you – will know the right way and will tell you.

Posted by Steven Fletcher at 10:44 PM
Edited on: Tuesday, April 08, 2014 11:25 PM
Categories: Musings