Fame is the shadow of passion standing in the light.                     Kahlil Gibran

Well, one could not have put down a piece of common sense in a more beautiful way! Chasing people’s recognition or fame will ultimately fail because what we are chasing is something that doesn’t have an independent existence.  We should learn to do things for their own sake. That way we will, at the very least have the consolation of not having put ourselves through needless pain, and, if we are lucky, we might even be rewarded for our efforts.

It is common knowledge that “The greatest works of man, are works of insanity.”  People seldom did something great by being completely reasonable or level headed. It takes a pinch of the obsessive and compulsive nature and a taste for super-human effort to come up with something new.  In other words, sometimes, you have to follow your heart and take a risk. It is not something that is recommended. It is something that some people have to… no, need to do.

This limitation of reason or linear mathematical thinking to come up with something new is a widely acknowledged one. For example, we have a category of puzzles which require a style of thinking called Lateral Thinking. These are problems that do not have a single solution. At least they appear that way. But, people with some experience of the world will be able to come up with an answer that fits the data. This answer is more or less unique. The power of our intuition to process vast quantities of data and memories in parallel and come up with stunning insights is pretty awesome. This has been written about in a book called the Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan. It is a book about the evolution of human intelligence and a must read for anyone interested in the topic. Similarly, the most mysterious things like art, music and even mechanical engineering are all best studied with feeling and not through equations.

Hearing about all this, one would feel  that intuition is the greatest quality of us humans. But, apparently, it is not that unique a quality. All animals possess it to varying degrees and it is what is most important for survival in the wild. The latest evolutionary gadget that our brains possess to the largest degree is our ability to foresee things and reason. The necessity for reason is not that hard to find out. Intuition is something that is hardwired into the brain, and while it bestows a kind of learning ability, it is something that is predictable. With reason, an additional degree of freedom is added to our brain. The advantage of this is again rather obvious. Our nervous system evolved to speed up change and allow us to adapt at a greater speed than the speed at which physical evolution allows us to. While intuition is a highly flexible quality, it is something that is not plastic. We have limited power to control it and because what it comes up with can never be proved to ourselves, there is a risk that we might go wrong. Nature initially got rid of those types of wiring that messed up ones intuition through selection. Because of the complexity of the system and it’s dependence on the environment, enough variations could be generated to rapidly evolve new styles of operation.

But with the coming of reason, physical evolution was made redundant. The speed of evolution became instantaneous and we as humans have become capable of being incredibly plastic. We now possess a kind of meta intelligence that is capable of controlling, modifying and suppressing our natural urges. Sagan talks about how Reason is like the Sun that rises in our minds eclipsing the tempestuous and seductive beauty of intuition which is compared to the night sky.

This much crap has been compressed and put across beautifully by the following line:

For reason, acting alone, is a force confining and passion unattended is a flame that burns to it’s own destruction.

Kahlil Gibran


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