Illuminating The Way You See Things
This blog is a retelling of three stories I have posted that seem like a good summary overview of my “The Process Of Illumination, Looking At The Way You See Things”.
A story about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson camping. As they lay down for the night… Holmes: “Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see.” Watson: “I see millions of stars.” Holmes: “And what does that tell you?” Watson: “Astronomically it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically it tells me that God is great and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you? Holmes: “It tells me that somebody stole our tent.”
The story is funny because it seems absurd and yet we can all somehow identify with it. We don’t pay attention to something obvious because we are so interested in something else, as was Watson, who failed to notice the missing tent, but he also failed to notice that he failed to notice. You might want to try to pay attention like a sleuth. Here’s why: (The eye sees in things what it looks for and it looks forwhat is already in the mind.” Scientific School of Police, Paris)
Another story: In his 2006 book The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt came up with this metaphorical image as he marveled at his weakness of will. I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I’m holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when theelephant doesn’t have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I’m no match.
In this metaphor the rider is Haidt’s rational mind and the elephant is his emotional mind. The rider is an advisor or servant, not a king, president or charioteer with a firm grip on the reins. The rider is conscious, controlled thought; the elephant is everything else. Gut feelings, intuitions, snap judgments happen constantly and automatically. The rider can’t just decide to change and then ask the elephant to go along with the program. Lasting change can come only by retraining the wild elephant, and that’s hard to do. (The mind is a wild elephant, The Buddha)
Final story: Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, tells a story about a young student attending three lectures given by a famous rabbi. The student said the first lecture was very good — he understood everything. The second lecture was better — the student didn’t understand it but the rabbi understood everything. The third lecture was the best of all — it was so good that even the rabbi didn’t understand it. Bohr tells this story because he says he never understood quantum physics, even though he helped create it. (If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention. Tom Peters) (If it can be understood, it is not finished yet,Murphy’s Laws)
Three lessons: 1) We only see what we pay attention to. 2) Intuition is the wild elephant that needs to be trained by the rational mind. 3) We don’t know as much as we think we know.