Sunday, November 16, 2008

Don't Get Run Over

I often ask myself the question: How many of a person’s decisions are actually his? I mean, after all, whether he is aware of it or not, he has preconceived ideas about every situation. If I’m in another city for the first time, my actions might be more dictated by the stories I’ve heard about that city. And the more I think about it, I’ve decided that not all decisions are made this way. Even if you reach the point where you acknowledge that you are nothing more than a machine processing information, and that you are the sum of memories and experiences which collectively determine your every next step, even then, there is still something missing from the equation.

You’re crossing the street, which was clear in both directions when you started. Halfway to the other side, something inside you tells you to move. Fast. You hear nothing, and you see nothing. No information that logically tells you to move your ass, yet you do so anyway. And it is only after the fact that you learn that had you not done so, you would have gotten hit by a truck.

This is not a logical decision, but rather an intuitive one. I think of intuition as a nonlogical process (not an illogical one). Intuition is, as Ian Xel Lungold predicted (using a very different approach), the next stage in human evolution. I believe these instances will no longer come in fleeting moments, but will come to be about as typical as following a map to grandma’s house.

And we can sure as shit use it now, more than ever. We are bombarded with information constantly everyday. Stress and paranoia are now social and cultural glues, and it would seem alien to not have to think about things logically anymore. Our minds don’t have time to catch up with it all. And advancements in technology are only going to make things worse. We still have teachers who don’t know how to set up a damn Yahoo group.

But I doubt that logic will fade away entirely, at least not for a while. Hell, the age of authoritative figures is still with us to a small degree, but is dying. Before people learned about logic, they depended on leaders for their answers. Before that, well, they probably didn’t know how to ask questions yet. But when logic provided them the possibility of finding out truth on their own, they were initially a bit skeptical.

They continued to be so, until information started to become more available and easily accessible with the invention of the printing press. The early stages of print media really stimulated an interest in finding out your own answers to questions you’ve always had. The pope’s approval ratings dropped, and though there are still millions of people who would jump off a bridge for him today, he has mostly become just another talking head in a whole warehouse of talking heads. Only the most simple-minded people still look to one person for all their answers.

Now we see another game unfolding. Everyone from Joe the Plummer to Ahmedinejad is an authority figure on something. Consequently, they are really the authority on nothing. They are simply symbols and icons. Conversation pieces. Added to that, the voices of the media themselves have become a louder clamor than the subjects they’re discussing. It seems that Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch, Oprah Winfrey and even Michael Moore have a stronger voice in this country than the people they comment on. The act of talking about someone famous is more informative and entertaining, it would seem, than the actual opinions of the leaders and celebrities themselves.

The ideological sway of powerful men is reduced to soundbites which are thrown into the media mix along with advertising, pamphlets, seminars, websites, and further complicated by an exponentially increasing number of laws and regulations on what can and cannot be said, shown or even done. It can be pretty scary, being caught in a torrent of media, especially when most of it is negative. As a result, not only can no one person be looked to for answers, the well disciplined, structured and sound codes of morality that you grew up with appear to break down all around. Every ethical construct becomes threatened, leaving a society with bags under its eyes because it can hardly rest. No longer does anyone have the time or resources to find out if genetically modified foods really are bad for you, or if Avian flu is really going to spread to America, or if your identity can really be stolen so easily, or if a food shortage will create riots in your neighborhood, or if rising gun sales will lead to a more trigger-happy populace, or if my job will be lost to an illegal immigrant, or if crazed fundamentalists are going to attack us again, or if the stock market is on its last legs, or even if we are possibly destroying the whole damn planet. There’s just no time to learn the truth about any of these things, and the media sure isn’t going to help you since it’s actually the problem.

This is why answering the question of what is right or what is true is such a challenge now. There’s just too much going on right now that one HAS to be told what to think in order to think about it at all. But I’m finding myself relying on my gut more than my brain. Sometimes I can’t explain why something is bullshit, I just know it is. If I feel like I shouldn’t be eating something, somehow listening to that instinct seems more reliable than spending a whole day researching FDA conspiracies to find out what’s being covered up.

I could spend a lifetime, in fact, researching alternative medicine, joining anti-war movements, or studying the history of the church, and all in an effort to make sense of the world’s bullshit. And if I pick one area that I’m most involved in, I might. But for everything else, my gut serves as a great bullshit-detector. And perhaps that explains my initial queasiness about a Barack Obama presidency.

I do have a plethora of logical arguments for why I am just a tad worried about the Black Messiah taking office, but it started as just a hunch. Back when there were ten Democratic options, I knew the next president would be either Clinton or Obama, and my money was on Obama. Though this is admittedly better than a McCain administration, I knew I couldn’t trust Obama. Back then it was just a hunch. Now it’s a reality.

In any case, what’s done is done. Realizing that my world is not quite as big as the television makes it out to be, I don’t have to live in panic and hysteria all the time. I’m worried, but I also know that a lot of it doesn’t even affect me, and most of it is out of my hands anyway. I would LIKE him to bring the troops home, sure, but what I REALLY want is a reversal of Arizona’s absurd new liquor laws which are going to force me to go to a class every two years to learn how to do what I’ve been doing for the past five. A class I have to pay for, by the way. I’m more concerned with who will be my next roommate than my next president.

This blog isn’t really even an argument for intuition, though, as an argument for such would be impossible. It’s not something one can argue. But I can say that if you feel it coming on, if you experience a moment where something is telling you not to do something, don’t do it. That doesn’t mean, “gimme a lotto ticket, Charlie, I’m feelin’ lucky!” That’s not intuition, that’s wishful thinking.

The best way I can describe it is to say you’ll know it when you feel it. It might happen during a job interview (on either side of the desk) or while you’re crossing the street. If it does, listen. It’s the only way to pacify the madness of this world.

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