Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cerebral ammunition

Here's how to conduct an evaluation. Begin by supposing that there is a grain of sense in every wrong-sounding statement. After all, according to a person’s framework, every action they perform, every opinion that they hold, makes perfect sense. It reflects back their worldview. There’s integrity there, an internal consistency. 

Allow yourself to ‘receive’ every thought or idea as if it was what Edward de Bono calls a ‘po’ statement (the term didn’t take off the way that ‘lateral thinking’ did). You don’t say ‘yes’; you don’t say ‘no’. Just keep your mind open. Suspend judgment, because it’s only through entertaining an uncomfortable thought that you learn something new.

For example, someone claims that no Jews died in the holocaust. 'Preposterous' is the right-thinking person’s immediate and automatic response. You want to put as much distance between yourself and such a blasphemer in the shortest space of time. But hold onto your horses. Don't rush away. Refrain from screwing up your face.

No one died? In what way could that be true? What could be an alternative meaning? Such a question may lead you to consider what you normally wouldn’t—for example what it really means to die. Could it be that there’s no such thing as death, or that death not what we imagine it to be? Use such levers to pry yourself further. 

Life and death are just different sides of the same coin. Therefore, the holocaust merely hastened the inevitable. After all, everyone dies. That is a given. Everyone who is born is destined to die. As soon as you’re born, you’re dead. It's not that by killing someone you are doing something which would not otherwise happen.

When you are told that radioactive fall out killed 250,000, and you learn thereafter that it shortened those people's lives by several weeks—but fifty years in the future—what does that imply? How do you record that in the acturial tables?

See? What at first you react to as nonsense can be smelted into cerebral ammunition. The point is not to be too hasty. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to shoot a non-truth down in flames. Develop the habit of keeping your mind open and flexible. Jack be nimble; Jack be quick.

When you encounter something new, you can barely lay a finger upon it. You barely catch a whiff of it at first. Ideas are elusive. They are inchoate and they flit about like butterflies. They’re flighty, and you’ll never catch them without a net.

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