Thinking About Thinking - 2020


Logic! Don't Play With Knives

By Balaji Prasad

“A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it." - Rabindranath Tagore

Many things sound more logical than they should, especially when you are as skilled at “logic" as most human beings are. Anything – anything at all – can be made to sound logical. Just look around and see your politicians: those that sit within government buildings, those that sit in and around you in your workplace, and those that hover around you at home, and, dare I say this … look at your own self, and the tales you weave.

Everything sounds logical. Somehow, though, things never feel as logical as they sound, if you really allow yourself to feel something deeper than the evanescent wisps of smoke that are the words you speak.

Where words stop, the world begins

Words are beauteous creatures. We can ride them and take them where we wish them to go. They are loyal steeds, our Rosinantes to the Don Quixotes we breathe back to life into ourselves. We can make our words sing, we can make them zing, and we might even fancy a fling with a thing with a bling that we bring when we think with a wink.

Our ability to think coupled with our facility with words makes life an interesting mix of reality and illusion. “No," you assert, indignantly, “I'll have you know that I'm a real realist. How dare you suggest that I might be mixing up hairy tails and fairy tales!?" I persist though and ask, “Tell me who the Buddha was." To which, of course, you might say, “That's simple. He was a really really wise man who lived a couple of thousand years or so back." To which, and much to your chagrin, I might say “And, how do you know this?" to which you might retort by saying that you had, of course, read about what someone had written about him. I might then continue to be annoying, and point out that you, of course, have no first-hand knowledge of this, and that there are people who write because they have the ability to write and because they enjoy inciting emotions in others.

Not everything we act upon can have the benefit of first-hand knowledge, of course, but it is helpful to be aware that many images conjured up in our minds come from a combination of what others have incited and the zesty things that already teem with wild abandon inside our heads. And, most importantly, that some of these things may exist nowhere other than inside our fertile minds.

The point of the somewhat contrived Buddha example is that even things that seem very real have imaginary dimensions to them, let alone things that don't even have a modicum of reality to them, of which there are many – far too many to enumerate. Suffice it to say that we can fall prey to illusions based on how our brains engage with whatever is out there. What can be a bit more troublesome though is that whatever is “out there" falls prey to our brains that want those things to be something other than what they really are.

Who needs magic when you have logic?

We are creatures of copious logic and infinite creativity. If we want something to be so, then poof – it shall be so! If we don't, then double-poof – it shall not be so! Some of us can put a Houdini to shame in making things mysteriously appear and disappear.

Except, we may not always be aware that we do this thing called “logic" – something that is even more powerful than magic. Magic needs assistants, accessories, venues, costumes, a deep sonorous voice and much more. Logic is much more subtle, nuanced, and persuasive. It is able to hack in through back-door vulnerabilities that the programmer left behind, as we blissfully get compromised and reprogrammed by those who have the motivation to do so. And, one of those “miscreants" is perhaps our own self. After all, if we had wanted to guard the back-door, we might have done so; but we don't, because, perhaps, we enjoy being hacked in the manner the hacker hacks us. There is collusion in the creation of illusions. Deep collusion! And deep illusions. Who we are, and who they are becomes blurrier and blurrier, as I find my words getting slurrier and slurrier. My words and my world blend into an indistinguishable blob of gray goo, and the whole thing starts to spin round and round.

Perhaps I have indulged too much in my addiction to words and logic? Did I remember to bring a designated driver, or am I going to, as usual, put both myself and everyone else in jeopardy? Stop me!

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Balaji Prasad is an IIT/IIM graduate, a published author, SAT/ACT Online and Offline Coach, interview, resume, and career coach at NewCranium. Contact: 704.746.9779 or balaji.prasad@newcranium.com