6.29.11 Since feeling is first: Stop Arguing & Start Feeling

When I was in my twenties, I had nearly memorized an e.e. cummings poem that begins

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

Part of me loved the wonder-daft love poem. And another, more rational, post-grad school part of me harrumphed at its lilac logic.

Now French cognitive social scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber have published a study in The Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences that suggests that reasoning evolved not to help us “get better beliefs and make better decisions.” Rather, they claim, it emerged as a social phenomenon “to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us.” Not to be reductive, but it suggests we reason to win more than to think through something.

For anyone who’s spent anytime in academia or in fundamentalist religious groups or in charged political circles – or who’s been in a serious relationship, for that matter – this is probably not news. It’s a reminder.

Since feeling is first, feel first. In a heated moment, note what you’re feeling. Walk down to the basement to find your biases hiding behind those logically marked jars. And speak from a place of openness, curiosity, an aim to connect and proceed instead of to win.

Okay, that might make you a lousy lawyer or professor. But it might help your humanity (and your relationship).

And today? What did you feel today? Really. Take stock of three atypical moments today. How would you describe them?

And if you don’t want to note that, just tell us what your day’s three highlights were – and let us know where you’re writing from.

See you in the woods,
The 3 Highlights Guy

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