Backward Thinking

Chicago 4/2015 mmc

Since 1996, I’ve included a suggestion in several syllabi for graduate courses.  Each of the courses was required in the curriculum of students preparing as social science practitioners:  therapists, educators, public administrators.  Each had significant content drawn from scientific knowledge bases.  And, because I was teaching them, each had significant content devoted to artistry.

It’s been three decades since I made the decision to become an academic and devote my work life to blending science with art in support of healthy social systems.  I had read CP Snow’s The Two Cultures, already a classic by then.  I’d also come into critical thinking in an adolescence that unfolded on the back end of what to me was the magnificently superior hippie generation.  Questioning authority was in.  For that curriculum, I was and continue a devoted student.

The good news: My questioning now, even as it continues fervent as ever, no longer needs to be asserted as an argument of either from a position of superiority or, by flip side, of victimhood.  Rather from a position of inquiry with what I’ve come to call functional humility.  My interest is in learning – and that pretty reliably comes from dialogue.

Snow wanted dialogue – educated public discourse that drew across ways of knowing.  His grave concern was with the lack of scientific literacy to go with literary acumen of the scholars of his day.  This, of course, was a concern referenced to a very select number of folk – those who had access to education and public voice.  Narrow as that demographic was, his point was and remains, for me, quite powerful.  Thinking inside one disciplinary box – academic, religious, political or otherwise is a recipe for educated ignorance – and worse, really.  Fundamentalism.  Facism.

I join Snow and all those hippies I so esteemed as no fan of any ignorance that sustains human degradation.  In the time I’ve been living the academic life, the antidote to ignorance has been dialogue and the willingness to listen and learn with it.

So, the suggestion I’ve been including in syllabi, with the caveat “Don’t believe me; check it out for yourself,” has been that for two to four thousand years, human beings have been thinking and living backward.  Certainly over the past 2000 years. And perhaps since agriculture came on the human line in the watershed of the Tigris & Euphrates leading to the soon-rampant illusion of being separate from the natural world. The time god and goddess were thrown into the air with the assurance, “No worries.  We’ve got it.” Along with the promise to visit on Sundays or Saturdays.

So here’s the suggestion.  We have spent long enough with the heart in service to the mind.  It is time to move the great tool of the mind back into service of the heart.

And here’s the data.  Over all that time, the participants in my classes have concurred.  Not only that, they’ve wanted to give rigorous thought to how to support and sustain that kind of move.

Perhaps we’re ready to shift back – not in the way of pendulum swings, but in the way of wisdom. Wisdom that grows from all the side trips we’ve taken to restore balance.  Thinking with heart – related and relational, and powerfully enabled with the meanwhile precise capacities of mind.



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One Comment on “Backward Thinking

  1. True that. Through my apprenticeship with a leading Shamanic author who’s teaching was based upon the same ideal of healing the mind heart connection I have used the tool of creating the keeper of the brain. The keeper of the brain doesn’t feel threatened when he realizes that he is my best Tracker. He can track in the past present and future. He is the best tracker forever!!! Unfortunately he was not the best decerner. Once he understood that his decernment was shaded by the past to be repetitive in the present and forcasted the future I had no trouble convincing him that his bestest was the hunt and that he brought back the information to be DECERNED by the Heart. He no longer had to carry a load that he was never equipped for. What a relief to have a heart that Decerns and a mind that is happy just tracking!!!

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