Thinking About Thinking - 2020


Life: Heads or Tails?

By Balaji Prasad

“There are three sides to every coin (Heads, Tails, and the Edge). Your ability to understand contrasting points of view and your ability to glean what information you believe to be valuable from each side is a crucial skill." ~ Robert Kiyosaki

It is what it is!

However, it doesn't matter one whit what it is. It is what it appears to be. There are only appearances! All matter in the world has to get crushed and squeezed into the gray matter whose definition of matter is the only matter that matters. We can call these distorted things “appearances" – even “illusions" – but it doesn't really matter. In the end, that's the only currency that our bank deals in.

Hexes and voodoo

If you see X when it's a Y in reality, does it matter that this distortion exists? Of course, it does. Unless, for all practical purposes, X is close enough to Y. So if you do your math and logic with X, you can get close enough to the reality that Y is a part of. You can put your hexes on your X's and the voodoo will play out on the Y's, and no one will be any the wiser for it.

But what if the X is an X, and the Y is a Y, and the two live in completely parallel universes? Then you can stick all the pins and needles into your X's, and nothing will happen to the Y's in the way you wanted it to. All you'll be left with are some twisted and tangled X's and whatever damage they ended up causing to Y and the rest of the real world in the process. For, there is always voodoo. Always!

Our heads live up in the clouds of appearances but our tails scrape along on the rough terrains of reality. And, our poor bodies are stretched, twisted and pulled asunder, as our heads and tails negotiate furiously with each other, seeking a reasonable out-of-court settlement that would keep both parties somewhat appeased.

Devious heads

The tails have no choice. They have to live on planet earth. The heads, on the other hand, have an abundance of choices. They can completely ignore what's happening on terra firma and invent their own utopian dreams, complete with enchanted castles, beneficent angels and vanquishable demons. Or they may choose to be a little more indulgent with the tails, peeking below the clouds every once in a while and seeking to understand what actually happens where the rubber meets the road. And, maybe even shuffling the deck in the head every now and then, so that the voodoo works just a tad bit better. Some rare self-deprecating heads are even more gracious – they respect the tails, and bow to their infinite wisdom and perceptive grasp of reality gained painfully in the school of hard knocks.

But things are muddier than this. You may actually be thinking with your head when it appears as if it's the tail that's dominating. The head is pretty persuasive and it has a way of being the real leader while displaying an exaggerated but entirely feigned deference to the tail's experience. And then there's emotion! There's nothing that knocks a tail off its trajectory than some well-placed emotion. Tears can tear the fabric of reality with the polished fierceness of a finely honed knife.

All this paints the heads in a dark light, as if they are malevolent, ruthless and devious monsters. That may be a bit harsher than warranted. The heads are equal citizens with the tails, of course, and we should accord them that status. They are the seats of intelligence after all. And imagination. Intelligence and imagination are not all negative, even though they might have a habituated tendency to veer into a parallel universe all their own. However, if grounded by the experience of the tails, heads can add to – even, temper - the tails.

Ill-tempered tails

Tails need to be tempered, because they are not as docile as it would appear. They have their own dark animal side too.

Tails whipsaw and lash out at would-be intruders and predators. In this, they are in their element, when danger lurks in the murky darkness. This is likely an evolution-driven survival instinct in all of us. But if this potent weapon is deployed flippantly to deal with mundane issues, the results can be devastating. If you're going to stampede a herd of elephants, there had better be a really good reason to unleash this kind of energy. But this, alas, is not always the case. Do we not see masses of people spew venom on others that they see as thinking differently from them? Do we not see them calling them hateful names and wishing earnestly for the worst for them? All because of things like religion maybe? Or, even more commonly today, political choices? This is the animal's tail on full display.

Two sides of the same coin

So, heads can be devious and tails can be nasty. On the other hand, heads can be a calming restraint on those ornery tails, while grounded tails can keep vaporous heads from floating off into the stratosphere like so many balloons filled with helium.

For better or for worse, this coin has both heads and tails. And it will be so until death do them part.

Until then... Know when you need a head, and see when you need the tails, to keep you alive - not dead, and catch blowing wind in sails.

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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