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I’m stupid.


Who isn’t once in a while?

Let me explain:

For much of my life I relied almost exclusively on my highly-trained rational faculty to solve all life’s problems. In a society where intellect is prized above all, I was rewarded for its judicious use and therefore saw no reason to modify my rigid approach to life; an upper-cut blow for every situation usually worked, so why change things?

Then I met my wife.

Here was this person who knew when to put her intellect aside as required, and deploy the use of other well-developed faculties; someone who had more than just the poniard of rationality in her arsenal. Where I tried to ‘out-think’ and ‘fix’ situations, she would engage her emotions. Where emotions would overwhelm me, she seemed immediately able to categorise and compartmentalise them for later processing. It was then that I realised how stupid I am, had been, and can be.

Life can be crudely considered be a terrain consisting of multiple arenas, and Nature being what it is - from a Darwinian perspective - has equipped us with the cognitive faculties to not only adapt but also thrive in the different scenarios in which we find ourselves. Confronted by a saber-toothed tiger, creativity - and not logical analysis - was the cognitive tool of choice, that allowed rapid and life-saving decisions to be made on the part of prehistoric humans. Emotional agility and malleability served to bring together entire communities, allowing the human species - as Yuval Harari beautifully describes in his masterpiece ‘Sapiens’ - to be the pre-eminent one on planet Earth.

In short, life requires the cognitive variant of a mixed martial artist’s toolkit, with situational awareness guiding which tool and approach is utilised during a given scenario.

It’s taken many years for me to come to what is actually a simple realisation for many people; that yielding a sword when a hammer is required, is unlikely to produce desirable outcomes. Our society lionises the intellect, forgetting that it functions well in its arena of comfort, but deplorably in others. Society’s inordinate emphasis on intellectual development has left many finding the navigation of life’s other arenas excruciatingly difficult, begging the questions as to what it is that truly constitutes a thorough and well-rounded ‘education’, and where exactly Society is headed with its current approach.

The idolisation of the intellect - by narrowing our vision of life - has paradoxically, made fools of many of us. Wisdom begins to dawn when when one realises that it is the integrated and synergistic functioning of all cognitive faculties, and not the exclusive domination of one, that leads to a harmonious and well considered life, the ‘eudaemonic ideal’ of the Ancient Greeks.


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