give me the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance every time - Douglas Adams


This blog is a response to some points raised by CheseaIRL's blog of 20 January 2012

Chelsea makes the valid point that each and every second we live is unique and potentially life changing and that we can never go back. This is true, the arrow of time inexorably points forward! This leads to Chelsea's main concern how not to waste time, not so much the wish to fill every second with activity but to make sure that what we do is valuable. Which leads on the the concern of not knowing how things will turn out.

Life is a series of decisions, some seemingly small, some apparently important. From, shall I get out of bed or what clothes do I wear? Shall I sell everything, buy a boat and sail off or go to work today? We all makes hundreds of decisions every day. Most are obviously right, some in hindsight may tun out to be mistakes, many seem arbitrary not really affecting the course of our lives in any significant way.

We can use our intelligence, past experience, acquired knowledge, to try and make the right decisions so our life path goes in the direction we intend. The law of unintended consequences eventually rears its ugly head to make even our best laid plans go awry. Many of the small decisions we make every day have to be made immediately, there is no time to contemplate. If you don't get on the train it will go without you. So if we accept the future is unknowable and our past experience is not always a good guide to the future, how are we to make the best decisions?

You have heard about people 'going on a hunch,' 'having a gut feeling' and other similar phrases. These are expressions of the use of the sub-conscious mind rather than the conscious rational mind. This is the way we already make most of the decisions we make. If we are tired we sleep if we are hungry we eat. We don't normally need to think too much about these things. To trust your inner self to make more of your daily decisions this way is I think the key to making fewer bad decisions. The question is how to allow this to happen, how to stop the rational mind from jumping in? The art as I see it is to 'be here now,' to concentrate on what you doing right now not allow the mind to wander. This mental discipline may be achieved in a number of ways I suppose but for me the best mind training is meditation. There are many forms of meditation but all share the same aim and quality, that of stilling the mind.

The human mind has been likened to a hyperactive monkey that is constantly looking for amusement. Keeping the mind healthy is much like keeping the body healthy. It needs good food and plenty of exercise. A mind without good daily workout is a mind going flaccid and ill disciplined. The last thing I want to share a room with is an undisciplined hyperactive monkey. The chances of making a good decision with a crazy monkey bouncing off the walls is slim at best. Yet this how many people live their lives!

Learning how to gain control of the monkey and be able to still it is the most vital life skill I have ever learned. This has enabled me to make more of my everyday decisions without thought and knowing they will almost certainly be right. This is not to lose sight of the value of planning. Time spent planning is time well spent. Trying to build a house without first drawing a plan is pure foolishness. The key is to understand the difference between a plan and the outcome. To plan for something is very reasonable and sensible. To expect something is the prerequisite of disappointment.

The future is unknowable, the past is but a memory, the now is it!