Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Ignorance and Intuition

"The measure of intelligence is the ability to change" -- Albert Einstein
Stupidity and ignorance are not the same thing. In fact I reckon they're kind of the opposite of each other.

There is an infinity of things that each of us doesn't know. So just being ignorant, not knowing things, can't possibly be the same as being stupid. No matter how clever you are, no matter how much you know, there's still an infinity of things you don't know. And a lot of what you don't know will seem blindingly obvious to other people, and they might think you're very stupid for not knowing.

What's really stupid is not knowing that you're ignorant. We're all ignorant in so many ways, so I reckon the first step of being clever is acknowledging that. Know, as much as you're able, what you don't know and be willing to learn. And that makes you pretty clever. Being able to learn. If you're able to learn and to change and to grow then you're not stuck.

Being stuck is the worst thing in the world, so don't be stupid. Be ignorant. Be willing to learn.

There's an interesting corollary between ignorance and intuition. Intuition is not quite the magic innate understanding that some people think it is. We all start life as blank slates, not knowing very much at all but with the ability to learn. The only thing that is intuitive, innate, is the nipple and the breath. We're born knowing how to breathe and to seek out food, and that's about it.

Intuition is where your subconscious minds prompts your conscious mind about something. Either it's a response to an external stimuli that you didn't notice consciously, but notice the unconscious response to, or the result of thought processes (possibly emotional thought) where you're not consciously aware of the process but notice the result (typically the feelings).

All unconscious behaviour is learned. Watch a child learning to walk. All that tortuous balancing and adjusting of weight and movement of limbs has to be learned. When a toddler makes their first unaided steps it's a huge achievement and a massive conscious learned effort.

Fast forward a few years and all of that behaviour is completely unconscious, habitual. You're no longer aware of the continuous micro adjustments you make as you walk. The same is true of driving, or any habitual activity. This includes human interaction and emotional behaviour. It's all learned, but through constant application you no longer need to think about it. It becomes entirely intuitive.

The danger is that you forget that it's all learned behaviour and think that it's innate. People with different emotional responses, or underdeveloped emotional responses in any walk of life, are clearly stupid. They don't have the same innate and intuitive behaviour patterns as those around you. These learned behaviour patterns are highly culturally influenced, you will have learned them from those around you as you grew up. That doesn't make them right, it just makes them normal. Other cultures may have very different behavioural patterns in the same area, and someone from a different culture may find your behaviour very odd and hard to understand or learn. They'll seem stupid. They don't know what, as far as you're concerned, everyone knows. You've likely forgotten that what appears intuitive is actually learned.

Don't mistake ignorance for stupidity.

The flip side of this is that intuition isn't always right. Intuition is the result of the operation of the mind in ways that you're not aware of. Your intuition may be very good, if you train your subconscious (habitual behaviour and awareness) then it can be a useful tool. But it's not gospel truth, it's just you.


"Who do you think you are, who do you think you are? I think that's a fair question to ask of anyone, so long as you're willing to believe the answer they give. You don't have to believe it, but I think you have to be willing to believe it."

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