I Have My Reasons

I had this idea in my early 20s that there was an equation that could define what it mean to live a fulfilling life.  I had reasoned this based on what I had observed that seemed common to the well being of all people.  People would generally laugh at me when I’d say something like this just as you may be doing now.  To be sure when I said equation I was describing nothing so trite as x+y=3, or anything like that.  This equation was look and full of many variables.  Some of those variables might be simple, like having oxygen and water.  Other variables could not be settled so easily and they would not have the exact same value for each person.  In fact the same could be true of oxygen and water, but there were certainly variables in that equation which might be more broad and whose details might on the surface look quite different for different people.  An example might be something like art.  Art is important.  For some it’s the doing of art, for others it’s the appreciation and enjoyment of it, for some it’s both.  For some people it’s painting, for some it’s writing, for some it could be making floral arrangements.  I think it’s true to say that I didn’t even have the equation worked out myself and I still don’t but it seems obvious to me that there is common ground when it comes to these variables that can be used for this equation to come up with a solution for a productive and meaningful life.

I was listening to a podcast recently where writer Andrew Sullivan was arguing with Sam Harris that reason could not form a basis for happiness.  This idea was reinforced in another podcast where Russell Brand was trying to make the point on his podcast that this secular world that is edging out religion is also edging out spirituality and thus making our world bereft of meaning in some way.  I would first say that I am not altogether sure that this is even true in that there is a lot of evidence to demonstrate that our world has a lot less suffering (as a percentage of the population) than we had even a 100 years ago.  But let’s say that Russell Brand’s assertion is true in his more deist outlook, and I know many other theists who share similar concerns.  As I look at the person I am now, I am someone who leans strongly in the direction and importance of reason.  More specifically scientific reasoning.  And I reflected on this claim by Sullivan.  Are things like love and spirituality eroded by reason?  If I hold reason, logic, empiricism, and all that stuff as guiding principles in my quest for truth, am I going to miss out on important meaning that could be present in my life?  The anecdote I started with here came to my mind, an idea that came to me from beauty I saw in mathematics, but also the reasoning I had done in observance of the human condition.  So I decided to write a post why I think reason is wonderful, in my humble opinion.

Image result for reason quotes

I will start by saying reasoning can be flawed, but not all reasoning.  Saying reason has no value because reasoning can be flawed is flawed reasoning.

Reason tells us that spirituality is important to humans.  Reason has shown us that you don’t need to believe in the divine to have spiritual experiences.  It’s reasonable to seek spiritual experiences.  When I reflect on why a certain experience was spiritual for me this helps me understand what factors might lead to more of these experiences.

Reason tells us that love is important to humans.  Feelings of intense love can be spiritual, and like spiritual experiences enjoying the emotion and not thinking to much about it the moments is a good idea.  Reason tells us that love is a lot like a drug, and makes act irrationally.  I don’t mind this fact actually.  Being aware of that though can help us think twice making a decision based solely on love, which also isn’t a bad thing.  Just as one might claim that life is more than just reason, life is also more than just love.  And even if love often defies reasons, we know there are reasons why humans love.  When I reflect on the reasons why I love, I understand myself better and this can lead to me having more experiences where I get to have those wonderful feelings of love run through me.

Reason informs me that humans must have meaning or purpose – things that drive us to more, to live another day just for the possibility of fulfilling that purpose or experiencing that meaning.  These things vary wildly among people as there are many ways to find meaning.  Too many perhaps because some seem to not know what direction to go in.  When I use my reasoning skills to evaluate meaning and purpose I feel like I understand how to make life more fulfilling.

Reason tells us that sometimes you have to do things for no reason at all.  Perhaps a better way of putting this is that it’s reasonable to do something that you’ve never done before, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.  It means taking a risk.  Fail or succeed you grow, and spending a lot of time reasoning about the possible outcomes can ruin the value you might get from taking the risk.  Without risk we don’t grow.  Reason tells us that when we stagnate we become apathetic and life loses meaning and purpose.  Time seems to fly by as it becomes routine and this precious existence is over before we know it.  So I’ve reasoned that I need to keep challenging myself, and sometimes it’s made life harder, but never dull.

Reason informs me that we all reason and by being clearer about our own reasons we can better communicate them.  Conversation can help expose us to different lines of reasoning, and help evaluate what lines or reasoning are better, worse, or just different.  Reason tells us that there is no right answer to the best flavor of ice cream, but there is a right answer to how to jump the battery in your car.  And this may be the reason why you have to sit and have an ice cream while you wait for AAA to come and tow your car to the mechanic.

Reason informs me that there are better and worse ways of thinking about problems and that there are rules to reasoning.  Reason has shown how prone to cognitive biases and delusion we are.  Reason tells me that it is hard to overcome these problems and it takes being conscious of it, and takes perseverance to continue to learn and to be reflective.   When we aren’t aware of how our reasoning can be flawed that’s when conversation can breakdown.  And once we can no longer have conversations through shared norms of sound reasoning, when conversation fails to resolve our differences, reason tells us that violence becomes a much more likely option in resolving differences.

Reason tells me that even though emotion can often guide my reasoning, I serve my compassion better when I detach emotion from reasoning because life also isn’t all about how I feel about it.  Reason tells me sometimes I have to step outside of myself so I can be more sure that reasoning isn’t flawed by my emotions.

Reason tells me that ignorance might be more blissful, but that there is nothing about life that says it is supposed to be one happy moment after another.  Sometimes reasoning will make us sad, anxious or scared.  But we can use that to drive us to make the world a better place and not let ourselves be paralyzed by it.  If more people used this type of reasoning, reasoning would lead to less experiences of sadness, anxiety and fear.

It’s reasonable to assume that you might not agree with my reasoning, but it was important for me to demonstrate that reason doesn’t have to be the antithesis to meaning and that it can actually enhance it.  It also may be that my reasoning is flawed.  There is a reason why I write a blog to have conversations.  There is also a reason that I keep trying to learn more, because good reasoning sometimes just requires more information.  There is a reason why I love reason, and hopefully you love it a little more after reading this.


21 thoughts on “I Have My Reasons

  1. Re “Reason tells us that spirituality is important to humans.” I wonder about this. If you were to ask 100 people “What is spirituality?” I tend to think you would get at least 50-100 different answers. So what is it, really, that is important to humans?

    Are we talking about a sense that there is more “there” than we can see? If so, I find people’s need of “spirituality” to be weak and shallow. If that is what spirituality is where are the explorers? If you search the literature, you can find lots and lots of verbiage, but very little in the way of agreement. Is anyone doing anything more than justifying their own cockamamie beliefs?

    I can’t tell you how many times I have felt awe (from nature, music, TV commercials, etc.) but it is a great many times. It is a feeling. It is interesting. It is not profound, any more than a toothache is. It is a feeling.

    People desperately want to have meaning in their lives. This is something psychologists would do well to explore. Why is this a need? Would we individually be different if we had such a meaning? If so, how?

    I see a great deal of of toes dipped into baths and nobody taking a bath … a lot of people are describing the experience but not making it concrete. I also see a great deal of imagination being employed. Look at the convoluted religious practices around the world. Where did most of that come from? The Buddha didn’t come up with all of the mandalas and clap trap that one can now find in Buddhist practices around the world. He didn’t come up with Zen. A lot of every religion got invented on the fly by “followers.” How they figured out where someone they never met was leading them beggars the imagination.

    People’s desire for spirituality is no more important than people’s desire for ice cream.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People might give a 100 different answers about love as well. Wanting spirituality and having spiritual experiences are two different things. I’m referring more to things we find spiritually fulfilling. This can come just as much about learning about the mating habits of the bower bird, to mindfulness meditation, to taking psychedelics, there are numerous ways to have spiritual experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Damn, I was going to limit myself to comment on just one point, but, well, … here I go again.

    Re “Reason tells me that even though emotion can often guide my reasoning, I serve my compassion better when I detach emotion from reasoning because life also isn’t all about how I feel about it. Reason tells me sometimes I have to step outside of myself so I can be more sure that reasoning isn’t flawed by my emotions.”

    This is a mistake. Reasoning isn’t improved by the removal of emotion per se. Possibly in mathematics or logic, but not in the sciences I studied. I coach archery. Archery is a repetition sport, something a robot could do well. Are the best archers those who eliminate all emotion from their shooting? It turns out that this is not the case. While strong emotion is not helpful, successful archer bring some passion and intensity to the shooting line when they are engaged in a great performance.

    We are emotional beings and we need to include emotions into our equations. We need to understand them better. We need to know why they evolved and how they manifest in our lives because if we delude ourselves into thinking we have excluded them from our reasoning we will receive a smack down of large proportions when we find out out that emotions act subconsciously, as does our reasoning. Everything in its rightful place playing its rightful role will lead to the best reasoning.

    Now I will shut up!


    1. I see your point to some extent, but I think we see how emotion influences are reasoning quite a bit. We also know that emotion can sometimes prevent us from seeing the greater picture. I think it is important to detach yourself temporarily from your emotions at times just to check your thinking. I certainly don’t advocate that life is better without emotions. That wasn’t the argument being made.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jim-

    Wisdom! And reason. Hey, it is an interesting conditioning of the mind. Religion is a crutch of dependency. How can believing in something that is not there, provide a better, happier life than reason and self awareness?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In general, I agree. I think sometimes believing in something that is not there has helped people. I have no problem if a former heroin addict needs beliefs to not be a heroin addict. They probably are happier than they were as an addict. But I believe there is always going to be some stagnation if there is no continuing pursuit of reason.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. jim-

        I can’t help but think the codependent conditioning instilled in our young has a little to do with it. When you realize nothing is there looking over you, it can be a lonely and difficult path to reconcile. They get them hooked into that way of life early, and it’s hard for most to see they’re perfectly able to handle life on their own.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Certainly… Someone who has found religion to “cure” their addiction likely had secular solutions that simply weren’t presented to them or their own religious upbringing that primed them for a certain way of thinking. It could be also a pathology there which has simply replaced religious addiction with their drug addiction. That being said I don’t think we can say that their life is less happy. There are many good religious people who do have happy lives and have faith. Maybe they could be happier, but that might be true of any of us.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Esme! Yes, anytime I use the word happiness, I think of Hariod now, judging me. 🙂 I define happiness as not one happy moment after another, but if the ups and downs of life lead to an overall average happiness…that’s happiness to me, and maybe not that different from contentedness. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think of happiness as the bursts, the highs that kick in, whereas contentedness as the path between said bursts, as much as it can be, if one is fortunate and canny enough to recognise it that is. *smiles*

        – Esme looking pretty contented upon the Cloud

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yeah, I’m not sure how common my definition is. I took it from an article I read about happiness research. I guess I look at it more introspectively, like “Do I have happiness?” For what you are describing I would just use the word happy. Happy bursts, feeling happy. 🙂

          But the main point is that when it comes to emotions language leaves a lot of ambiguity. Contentedness is probably a better word in general!

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Yes, I love Hariod for coining the word contentedness. It assumes that life is what it is (in your words Swarn, “I serve my compassion better when I detach emotion from reasoning because life also isn’t all about how I feel about it.”). Yes. Life Is. With reason, we can acknowledge this fact. We feeling types do well to understand this so we are not constantly blown to shreds in the emotional morass of What Ifs, and Why Nots and what’s fair and what isn’t. Life is all of these things. So contentedness, at least to my understanding, is being okay with Life As It Is, despite its ups (happiness!) and downs (getting discouraged at the apparent lack of humanity in the political arena, i.e.). It keeps one steady and open to service in the moment. To miracles in the smallest of things. Aloha, and good write, Swarn. ❤

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer | Esme's Cloud

  5. “Reason without emotion is often a mask for cruelty; emotion without reason can allow people to excuse all sorts of excesses.”

    ― Nalini Singh

    Ultimately I think there needs to be a balance as the above indicates, which is why I often refer to myself as half Vulcan half Empath; the voice of logic and science balanced with looking at the world with empathy and the heart. They don’t always get on, but I know listening to both makes for a more contended life. The belief that there may be more going on in the universe than science has yet to comprehend seems perfectly reasonable to me. Speculating just what it is that has yet to be discovered tends to be the major problem for humans. I for one, as previously mentioned believe there is every chance a humongous alien child is playing a game called ‘Grand Theft Autoship 9; Earth version’ and we are mere pawns in the eye of a spotty green lad who isn’t all bad but has the usual boredom and lack of understanding as to true consequence that most children do. It seems more likely than most come out with.

    ‘Spirituality’ has a bad name for itself in some circles and often I think the names we give our thoughts do not cover the whole shebang. Nothing is black and white, no matter how much some people wish it to be. Apart from black and white. They are actually black and white though Douglas Adams has this to say on the subject, which I simply have to paste as it is so fine a set of words;

    “Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.
    The argument goes something like this: “I refuse to prove that I exist,'” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”
    “But,” says Man, “The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”
    “Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
    “Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.” – D.A

    Happiness is brilliant, it’s my drug of choice after Jack Daniels, and never fails to hit the spot, but it is also fleeting, contentedness is the background hum, the day to day smiles, the weighing up of yays and nays, blues and sunshine that weather our lives and nodding at how truly fortunate we are. I still want my happiness hits though, oh yes, I mean I could give it up anytime I wanted of course, I’m not addicted to it, I just like a little hit every now and again man, and sometimes I know where to find it too . . . *smiles*. I gave up dealing years back though, so don’t ask, m’kay?

    What was I talking about again? *laughs*

    – Esme with her pointy ears, and psych couch upon the Cloud

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry for the delay Esme. This was a nice long comment so I wanted to have the time to respond appropriately.

      First of all, you have quoted my favorite passage from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It is good that you typed out for the readers, but it is so much my favorite passage that I have the whole thing memorized. I’ve never forgotten it since the first time I read the book 27 years ago.

      I am not sure how successful I was with the post in terms of expressing that balance. I feared I have more expressed that there is a duality between reason and the things where reason seems to not apply. Even as we strive for balance we might get the feeling that there is an either or between things like reason and emotion and I think they are much more intertwined. Like you have said when you’re half Vulcan, half empath, they don’t always get along, and I think that not getting along is because they are so often entangled rather than on one side or other of a battle front. For instance recent studies show that doubt is an emotion, a lighter form of our disgust reaction. So if I told you that the sun was purple, your reaction to me trying to tell you this as a fact would be an emotional one, even though often chalk that up to you reasoning correctly, and me reasoning wrongly. I think that the Vulcan and the empathy feed back and forth, as they should and we must constantly work to make sure there is a back and forth, because ultimately it might be worse for us to detangle it all. This leads us to think there are places where reason does not apply, and that there are places where our feelings have no value. I think that has an overall negative consequence on our well-being. That’s just my opinion so don’t take my word for it. 🙂

      As we discussed before I think perhaps we just view the meaning of happiness a bit different, but I agree with you in terms of how you define it. In the end Hariod is right as much as I hate to admit it. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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