#BlogElul 5: Know, 5774 edition


#BlogElul graphic

It’s Elul again!

So, here’s another case of the same theme on the same day. I think the same thing happened yesterday but I was too tired to notice. That’s the problem with writing blog posts after Shabbat.

In last year’s blog post, I talked about the intuitive knowledge that we have without any kind of obvious evidence, just because we know.

I realise now that this is the kind of thing that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book Blink. So it’s not that there isn’t any evidence, it’s just that it’s the kind of evidence that hasn’t been painstakingly collected and collated and considered following the scientific method.

Our subconscious brain just takes what it sees and puts two and two together, sometimes to make five, and sometimes to a most glorious four that we totally didn’t see coming. So we discount it, especially if we were raised in the Church of Rationality, as I was. I was trained as a scientist for heaven’s sake, we don’t do intuition and “this just seems wrong”.

Except, you know, we do. Every creative scientist works on hunches and feelings and how it just should be. Sometimes this leads into dead ends, and sometimes into really wrong conclusions, and sometimes, again, to glorious new ideas. The grunt work of collecting the actual evidence comes later.

One of the most iconic scientists of the twentieth century, Albert Einstein, asked whether the Universe is a friendly place. This is definitely one of those questions to which we cannot find a scientific answer. What does “friendly” mean, anyway, and how do we measure it? If the Universe is indeed friendly, how would we know?

In yesterday’s blog post on acceptance, I wrote, “Since there’s no way to know, one way or the other, why not believe in hope rather than despair?”

I found a very cool article in Psychology Today by Robert Fuller, which declares that the Universe is as friendly as we are. I find that a fascinating concept, that suggests that we are not helpless victims of what is out there, but actors and powerful beings who can influence events. In particular, he mentions that the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid that hit the Earth, but if we were faced with a similar situation, we would probably find a way to prevent it. It’s that kind of creativity and agency which makes us truly human.

All of this fits beautifully with what I’ve been learning from Brooke Costillo, Byron Katie and other teachers, about the power of our thoughts to influence our feelings and therefore our actions.

There are many, many things we cannot know. But there is a remarkable number of things that we can, even though we don’t realise it. What do you think?

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One Response to “#BlogElul 5: Know, 5774 edition”

  1. Lynne Says:

    love it! Yes yes and yes! Worshipping the Rational is never good for us…it’s not all their is. I was just saying to Rich that I believe people become miserable and unbalanced trying to pretend that the world is only that. And as you say, we don’t have to know what the irrational exactly is, just that it is is enough

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