Thursday, May 10, 2007

Rational Thinking

In my Myth Magic and Religion Anthro course, we talked about the ideal of Rational vs. Irrational thinking and how humans are really arational thinkers (of course, cannot remember subtleties of this discussion nor who coined the 'arational' term - and is that two rs? looks weird with one).

But I am up at 2 am (again, waking from sleep insomnia strikes), and suddenly have this unformed discussion about rationalism in my head. Oh, I know, was thinking about astrology, by which I am occasionally fascinated. Bf thinks it is a bunch of hooey, which for prognostication purposes may be true. But how interesting that there are thick tomes written trying to understand the world through the stars. And not just "the stars", but the precise placement of stars in the sky.

It is a STUDY, regardless of the final use of the data collected. And I enjoy reading my horoscopes, if only as a daily meditative exercise (but honestly, sometimes I just enjoy them for the 'drama' they provide).

The myth of rational thought is pretty pervasive in our culture. The rational is thought to be cold, calculating and pure, the emotional to be hot, impulsive and contaminated. But rational thought, for humans, isn't as easy as it seems. Nor, in my opinion, is it as universally necessary as the rational thought camp thinks.

What makes a rational thought isn't as objective as we'd like to think. To my mind, it can be a rational decision for a person to commit suicide - but some people would typify that as irrational, always. To (at least some of the) people who voted for George Bush twice, that was a rational decision. To me? Crazy as hell.

The idea of rational vs. irrational is largely about seeing the world as Western vs. Not as well. That the mythologies of the dominant religions in the west (Judeo Xtan and Islamic traditions) are not "magic", but other (generally smaller indigenous) religious traditions are considered magical and therefore lesser is the largest example of this. And within the larger context many people in the US have been calling Islam an irrational religion while ignoring the irrational nature of Christianity).

For me, being absolutist about anything is not the ideal. Of course, I am like a dish full of mercury*, never staying in one cohesive piece for long, able to split and regroup around ideas and ideologies.

This is not to say that I am 'against' rational thinking. Of course not. Some days calculating rational thought is all that keeps me from running away to join the circus. Irrational thoughts can be helpful as well - being free to think about all of the options, no matter how unrealistic, is a part of being creative. Knowing when it's time to be rational and time to be irrational seems to be a valuable skill.

With all that I see and hear and my one-step-back position from most discussions and situations, I just don't feel I need to pick a camp. I like it here on my small patch of a-rational land.

*This makes vast amounts of sense, seeing that I am a Gemini, who is influenced very heavily by the planet Mercury. Just saying.

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