Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Death of Reason

The Death of Reason

There is a danger in our world today. More an imbalance that is dangerous. Let me explain by using two of my favorite characters, Spock and Kirk. Spock is reasonable, logical, and always can think ten steps ahead. He is the brain of the pair. Kirk is impulsive, often foolish, depends on luck, and somehow manages to come out ahead. He is the heart of the pair. Both of them worked together, and they were stronger together than apart. They needed each other. Neither were complete without the other.

But in our world today, it is not so. What we have tried to do is get the heart by itself. Do you think I am overstating my case? Book after book, film after film, show after show, talks about "following your heart." Popular ad slogans say, "Do what feels right." In fact, even psychology is leaning toward the power of emotions. The STUDY of the mind has in some ways been taken over by the other side.

Some would say, "What's wrong with that?" The reasons are too numerous to name. But there are several that need to be considered.

First, it makes us vulnerable. Some emotional music, some drama, maybe a slogan or two. This is the power of advertising. Oh yes, Sign and Drive. So easy, so simple. And the payments you are saddled with for the next ten years? Did you consider those, too? Or were you taken in by a cute commercial with snow and presents and a big red bow?

Perhaps that is harmless, unless you get in debt you cannot pay. But the dangers are greater than just losing a little money. What about the news? The news feeds off fear. We see that now. Terrorism turns into xenophobia at the switch of a politician's voice. What about a grudge into the Holocaust? The power in the voice of a man with a mustache turned into death camps and international horror.

Don't pretend you don't know what I am talking about! The danger in turning off your brain cannot be underestimated. How come is it that so many people seem to want us to do just that? How come learning is underestimated and devalued? What CS Lewis talked about in the Abolition of Man is coming true. Truth, knowledge, even values themselves are becoming a matter of taste- even though they are not. And so we are left drifting, susceptible to those with an agenda. Do I call conspiracy? No...unless it is a spiritual one.

Satan is the Father of Lies. Therefore, he has no real facts, no truth. All he has is propaganda. So remember that next time your emotions want to take you somewhere. Take the higher road. Check the facts and be sure of your course. Then, if it is legit, proceed.

Second, it stifles creativity and stops the progress of all civilization. I am a writer. Certainly, my original ideas just seem to pop into my head. But I can't continue that way. Even if I am a seat-of-the-pants writer (and I am), I need at least some sort of idea of where the story is going. I have to THINK about the characters and plot. If I didn't, I wouldn't have a story. I'd have nonsense.

Writing can be extended to other endeavors, too. What about art? What about engineering, architecture, medicine? I used to have a bad ear. I could hardly hear out of my left. Now it is getting better, progressively, by God's hand. But what if I had gone to a doctor and I didn't "feel" what he was telling me? Who's the fool then, if he is a legit doctor? Is it him, or me? 

Third, it dulls us. Thrill-seeking is good sometimes. Taking risks is not bad. But you can't live only on an emotional high. That dulls us, and makes us bored. I am glad I read books more often as a kid than I watched TV. TV is excitement, images, emotion. Yes, books can be that, too, but in reading, you have to engage your imagination. You still have to think. TV has little of that (more on rare exceptions). You are simply absorbing. And like a lake with no outlet, eventually you begin to die.

Even educational programs and news, good as they are, don't offset this completely. See, TV has time limits. Even the best segment can only have so much. You are not doing the picking and selecting, but absorbing what people have already selected, and their biases to go with it. Far better to actually read, and read as much as you can about everything that interests you or is important. (As an example, the Middle East is the subject of a lifetime. An hour of soundbites, with a dressing of bias, will barely begin to scratch the surface. So a news program should always be only the starting point!)

With all that said, there is nothing wrong with having emotions. In fact, I would say that emotions are part of what make us human. Any computer can have logic. The rules of logic have been well-established, enough to use in machines with no soul. But a machine cannot feel, cannot sorrow, cannot love.

And emotions serve a very important purpose. As pleasure and pain are indicators in our physical body, emotions are indicators in our soul, if you believe we have a soul. Too much grief is a sign our soul is crumbling. Excessive exuberance is also bad, a sign that something is not quite right. In other words, emotions are the lights on the dashboard of our soul. Normal emotions are just that, normal. We need joy and anger, love and disgust, even fear.

Some Christians look at some of these and say no. But I say yes. Certain things are unjust, and need to be challenged. Anger serves a role then. Fear keeps us from running out in front of traffic. Disgust keeps us from eating garbage. Yes, excess of these are bad, but these, in and of themselves, are not bad. We must not be Buddhists. They say to give up desires. Christians, on the other hand, are about transforming them.

And, of course, it is possible to be unbalanced in favor of logic. I feared my emotions, and hid them. For me, I have to understand the importance of feeling. Sometimes, "vibes" are important. How many policeman, soldiers, security guards, and other people in dangerous careers have been saved because something didn't feel right? Even those of us who don't face death every day could benefit from having a sixth sense. I am not speaking mystically, but practically. Deal with something long enough, and you get a feel for it, beyond the logic of the subject or career. This is God's gift to us.

So if we have an unbalance in our lives and culture (and I believe we do), what can we do? There is only one thing to do- learn to think. I believe a course in logic should be required for every high school student. Then I think the analysis of books, movies and TV should be required for at least one semester in college. I don't say that lightly. I say that so that we can all have a foundation.  

"But we can read other people's analyses." Yes, but there is nothing like studying for yourself. And, since I believe strongly in individuality, different perspectives can be brought out and creativity can flourish. One thing I fear is that through our emotions, people will teach us only one perspective. And that cannot be.  

"And you Christians..." Don't even start. I have no tolerance for fools. Any fair reading of Paul's letters shows a sharp, analytical mind. Proverbs shows an insight into life that has rarely been matched, logical for the wisest man who ever lived. The gospels are cogent and well-organized. Even the Mosaic law, for some of its harshness, is simple, brief, and to the point. So believe what you want, but don't pretend the Bible doesn't have logic.

Certainly, Christians have been illogical, and sometimes have relied more on emotion than common sense. Many of us have been reactionary, but that is in spite of orthodox teaching, not because of it.

So let's learn to think. Really think. Not, "follow your heart." At least, not alone. Not, "do what feels right." Not without dealing with the consequences, also. Not, "heart over head." Not now, not ever, not at all.

"But my temperament." Yes. Some of more "feeling." Some are more "thinking." But in whatever proportion you have them, you need both. No temperament or personality is completely "feeling" or "thinking." So that is also a bad excuse.

"But I am not smart." Everyone is smart in something. I heard there was something like 8 types of intelligence. Being book smart is but one. Whatever you are smart in, be smart in that. If you can read, study and absorb all you can. If you are a kinetic learner, dance and play until your body is lean and mean. If you are spacial, be an architect or designer.  You get the point, and I won't belabor it.

Finally, "What about faith?" True. Faith, for a Christian, is the foundation, for we serve a God that is much higher than we are, and that cannot be fully understood. Mystery and awe are important for us, and should never stop being important. But faith is not free-floating. It has an object that it is attached to, and God has given us enough that we can know who he is and what he has done. Not everything, but enough to know him. But isn't that true too on an earthly plane? No one knows everything about me. I don't even know everything about me. But I can give enough that those around me can know me pretty well. Whether I want to is another question, one that has nothing to do with intelligence. So the argument of "faith" is also an excuse.

There is no excuse for not using your mind. Many times, these excuses are a cover for something else-laziness. Every gift uses the mind, and in these days of apathy and violence, we dare not use everything we have. So don't check your brains at the door. Use them until you die.

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