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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Sometimes one reads or hears about a crisis of rational thought—that rational thought is impotent when confronted by the complexity and irrationality of human life. I am convinced that such doubts are unfounded. Historically, it has been the representatives of science—that is, of rational thought—who have recognized and tried to solve the problems of economic and social regulation, environmental protection, pollution control, the management of irreplaceable resources, population planning, the maintenance of an open society with the free exchange of information, and disarmament including the control of nuclear weapons.
I am convinced that humanity’s survival depends upon open and tolerant societies, and their ability to progress guided by scientific principles. This method does not promise paradise on earth, but then, does the essence of human existence reside in utopias? Our future depends on persistent and unselfish effort, on our sense of responsibility, and on our wisdom.
–Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, Science and Society: Address to the New York Academy of Sciences, Dec. 6, 1979 (remembering Andrei Sakharov on the twentieth anniversary of his death).

I copied this quote verbatim from today's Scott Horton's No Comment Blog. It struck a nerve, let me explain.

My definition of art is that there is within us all two aspects of thought. There is the reasonable, logical, scientific, mathematic (left brain); and there is the emotional or right brain. Just as there is the flesh (Id) and spirit (Super Ego) that is balanced by the Soul (Ego) in faith or Psychology. There is a balance between reason and emotion. I call that balance Art.
The rational side of our natures asks questions and tries to figure things out. It is always searching for new things and new ways to do things, but devoid of emotion it is sterile. There are good things to be said about objectivity in its proper time and place. You want professionals to be objective and focus on the problem at hand which is why even lawyers will get another lawyer to represent them and doctors should not treat themselves or family. You expect artists to whether musicians, painters, writers, etc to be tempermental and irrational even insane like Van Gough. At least that's the stereotype. They live large and die young usually from a drug overdose from trying to live too hard and too fast.
  • Being purely reasonable is cold and meaningless. In our schools the focus is becoming more and more on the science and math skills but at what cost to the humanity of the students? What about the students that would rather write literature or draw or sing or learn to do a simple task and make a living as a technition instead of scientist? All the testing we're putting these kids through is trying to make a living breathing human into a learning machine. We are analog not digital. In religion the purely rational mind focuses on literalism and legalism and tries to make God conform to an equation.
  • Being purely emotional is even more limiting. This does sometimes get confused with art as most artists have a more dominant right brain functionality. Maybe that's because in out specialized, compartmentalized society the scientists and mathemeticians have shut out that side of the brain and only artists are allowed to open up those pathways, but emotion by itself is too chaotic and without direction. For education students are allowed to do their own thing, learning is by experience not production, who needs discipline? You want to see pure chaos in action travel back in time to the late 1970's and early 1980's when they built schools without interior walls and teachers were to just guide the elementary and middle school darlings on their path to understanding. When I first started teaching that was the vogue. In English it was called whole language and the buzz word was "Self Esteem." In religion this becomes superstition and people are ruled by their fears when bad things happen. Illnesses and natural disasters become manifestations of God's wrath and he must be placated by sacrificing an animal, child or killing whichever minority that gets blamed.

To be totally human is to have a ballance. To live a meaningful life is to have a ballance. It's the art of living that I think Sakharov calls wisdom. The one thing that I find truly lacking in our schools, religion and politics right now is wisdom.


Michael Manning said...

A very interesting post. One of the most fascinating textbooks I ever had was in a class called "Psychology in the Workplace". The book was "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman. This book came to mind as I read this very well written blog post, PM!

P M Prescott said...

Thank you Michael. "Emotional Intelligence" almost sounds like an oxymoron, but it is desperately needed.

grandma1 said...

Need to talk to you.