Have we pushed out intellects to far? Is it stopping us from being happy?
So, how’s the age of reason working out for you so far?
I’m not going to try and tell you that the age of reason – our drive to be more rational, logical and scientific – has been all that bad. I’m not one of those folks.
Some people say it’s been a disaster, because it now seems we might be at the point of wiping humanity off the planet like mould of a bathroom vanity. But that’s unfair. We don’t know how things would of played out if we hadn’t got collectively brainy. It easily could have been much worse.
And the past wasn’t any better. I still think I’d take this era over pre-enlightenment darkness any day.
(Seriously. You’ve heard how lippy I am. I probably would have been burned for a witch!)
But I think there is something in this feeling that’s worth paying attention to – this feeling that putting all our eggs in the rational/scientific basket maybe wasn’t the way to go.
For me, I wonder if it’s maybe that the celebration of the intellect has come at the expense of something else – like more intuitive, more creative, more body-based ways of knowing.
I wonder if the ideal is actually a balance, or the case of choosing the right tools for the job.
For example, if I’m doing a feasibility study and trying to figure out if I can make a particular deal work, and intellectual and analytical approach is exactly the right tool for the job.
But if I’m trying to figure out how to deepen my relationship with my daughter, then maybe not so much. Maybe I need something more ‘heart-driven’.
But its easy to get the impression that the world wants you to put intellect above all else, and not get be distracted by your “airy-fairy feelings”. Stiff upper lip and all that.
We bump up against this a lot in the work we do. Once you start calling in the resources to be able to do more of what you want, you have to face the question:
“Well, what do I actually want?”
That sounds like an easy question, but some people have pivoted so far to the intellect that they have no way of answering it.
Because the intellect can’t answer that question for you. It’s not something you can ‘deduce’ or ‘figure out’.
And that means you’ve got to come back to the body, the emotional world, the seat of your desires. Happiness lives in the body, and so the first step on the road to happiness is to tune in with what actually makes your body happy.
And that can’t happen if you’re not having a conversation with your feelings.
The American poet Mary Oliver has a lovely poem called ‘Wild Geese’ where she says,
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
So if it’s true that over-intellectualisation fuzzies the connection between us and the things our hearts truly want, then what happens at a global level, if we’re all doing that?
What happens if, as a people, we don’t know how to connect to the things that make us truly happy?
And is that, more than politics or terrorism or global warming, actually what’s wrong with the world today?
And is that why there’s a push-back building against ‘reason’, despite everything science has given us?
Humanity has to square this away somehow. We don’t want reactionary nut-jobs blowing up the science labs.
But we do have to find what it is that makes us happy.
This a job that every human faces.