“Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.” ~Ambrose Bierce
We have knighted reason — and with good cause. It towers above lesser states of being, states like guilt or apathy, grief or fear, anger or pride. It even surpasses some more desirable states like courage, willingness, and acceptance. Yes, being reasonable is a great place to be.
If you are a reasonable person, you likely worked hard to get there. After all, the world doesn’t always behave rationally and so it can be an uphill climb for the thinking person. But it is this past dutiful effort at self-improvement that may be holding you back now.
I Think; Therefore I Think
The French mathematician and philosopher René Descartes famously opined, “I think; therefore I am.” Descartes along with many others felt that the essence of their being arose from their thoughts. So having reached this pinnacle, there must be nowhere else to go so as to know yourself or to negotiate this world successfully.
Science is the perfect application and example of reason. So let’s use the scientific method to test out Descartes’ hypothesis. Can you ascribe everything about your existence to reason? Is your every action preceded by thought? If you have every thought, “Why on earth did I just do that?” and your answer was, “I just wasn’t thinking,” you have a Descartes dilemma on your hands.
If Only I Had Enough Information
Our next problem is that for our thoughts to be accurate, we need accurate information to start with. We all laugh when a young child, with perfect reasonableness, draws a ridiculous conclusion because they don’t know something any adult would know.
My daughter, at a young age, thought a strawberry was a toy rather than food because we had never fed her anything red before. Even though her thinking apparatus was operating perfectly, she almost missed out on a delicious treat had not her mother intervened. The look of newly acquired knowledge shone across her face with surprise and delight when she tasted that sweet berry.
Now I Have Too Much Information
Back in the day, if someone had access to a few books, they read and reread them over and over again. It was all they had to draw on. Perhaps within the last few hundred years, libraries became widely available in the industrialized world. But access was unevenly distributed and some libraries actually restricted who could use them.
The internet has changed everything when it comes to information access. Chances are you are reading this very article right now courtesy of the World Wide Web. The volume of information online surpasses even the greatest of the world’s libraries. Additionally, access is not restricted to the western or developed world but is widely available to the most economically disadvantaged locations on earth.
So now it seems an impossible chore just to sort out the useful information from the noise. What is a thinking person to do?
Let’s Get Practical
Practicality — there’s something a thinking, reasoning person can get behind. For all the usefulness of reason, we solve problems on a regular basis with something beyond reason. We all experience it although some do more regularly than others. Have you ever had an epiphany, a revelation? That might sound a bit grandiose. How about an idea, have you ever received an idea out of the clear blue? Something beyond reason was at work there.
Intuition, hunches, inspiration — these are common enough experiences. If you say, “No thanks, I’ll just think instead” every time something new came to you, sooner or later these messages would stop arriving and then where would you be? You would be in a place where thinking would become harder and harder, and less and less effective.
Where the Laws of Physics Stop Applying
There are people in your life that you care about. What if you let another person into that elite group? Would it diminish your love for those already there? No. In fact, often the opposite happens. Love, very unreasonably, expands.
It’s reasonable to be happy if things are going your way. The problem with this formula is you are not allowed to be happy without those reasons or if you have reasons not to be happy. So while happy is a lot of fun, joy is surpassing. Joy is not based on conditions. You can be joyful while in pain, you can be joyful while broke, you can be joyful without a significant other, without a child of your own, and without the continued company of loved ones you have lost in death. To sum it up, joy surpasses reason.
We often think of peace as the absence of conflict. But such an absence of conflict is merely conditional like the happiness we discussed earlier. True peace is unlimited. It is like joy, unconditional and immutable. Peace, like joy, escapes the gravitation hold of reason.
The Real Way Out
At the end of the day, peace, joy and love do not destroy reason, they stand upon it and rise above it. Don’t get trapped into thinking that such rarified states as love, joy, and peace are beyond you. They are merely beyond reason. Yes, you have to take a step into new, unknown places to regularly experience them. But no matter how difficult your life has been, likely you can point to at least one experience of one of them. Remember that you have been in that place and you can return there at will. It is your birthright, your natural state.
“You can’t think your way out of this.” click to tweet
It is hard to let go of reason. But don’t think of it as letting go. When you graduate from a school, you stop going to that school. But you take what you learned and experienced with you wherever you go for the rest of your days. So think, use your reason, just use it as a springboard to a surpassing level of existence. Imagine your life based on the philosophy of: “I love; therefore I am.”
What do you think? Tell us about it by commenting below.
Photo credit: RadioNichole
2 thoughts on “You Can’t Think Your Way Out of This”
It’s scary to consider that thinking and reason aren’t enough. It seems like it’s the best we’ve got. But I have to admit that my intuitions have a better record than my thoughts.
Lean into that discomfort and it will get easier. You can even get to the point where you are as comfortable relying on intuition as you do thought. It’s just practice.