Friday, October 19, 2007

What Would Obi-Wan Do?

RenĂ© Descartes’ simple yet profound supposition, “I think, therefore I am,” succinctly expresses the idea that the mind directly influences man’s actions. Yet, he believed that at times the reverse can be true, causing a duality in man that goes against rational thought. Thus, to “govern our passions” is not as simple as thinking through them logically, but rather finding a balance between the two that leads to true knowledge. Whether each alone can realize this same end without regard to the other, and to which is the purest means for attaining it, has been a philosophical dilemma for centuries.

Our lives are filled with a constant tug of war between the heart and the mind. We are told to follow our heart, yet cautioned to look before we leap; equally, in spite of the most irrefutable of facts and analysis, intuition can override such rationality. In such a dynamic, the mind will accept intuitive decisions if it seems the logical course to follow. E.E. Cummings, in his poem "Since Feeling Is First,” makes it clear that emotions are the guiding spirit in our lives rather than the mind. “Since feeling is first,” it reads, “who pays any attention to the syntax of things . . . and kisses are a better fate than wisdom.” In Cummings world, ignorance is bliss when it comes to self-expression – even if it means being wrong.

Personal passions often drive many of today’s issues that need rational, thought-out resolutions. As the facts stare us in the face, our minds can tell us one thing and our hearts the exact opposite. Often, it is an uncertainty as to the proper course to follow, and examples abound equally of decisions made contrary to the way reason points and feeling suggests. Many times, we second-guess our decisions at the time or do it in hindsight whenever there is an underlying uncertainty. It is human nature to do so, just as it is to follow through in spite of such reservations.

Passionate zeal, as an emotional state, is unfortunately only temporary, and typically not reliable in the long-term. The reason for its short-term success is motivation toward immediate action. However, the results generated from such depend greatly on emotional sustenance, as a dispassionate attitude leads only to weak action and mediocrity. It is therefore important to think critically on the issues, while maintaining a passion for them, in order to differentiate between a solid argument and absurdity in the call for action – or lack thereof.

Throughout history, leaders and ordinary citizens alike have made both calculated and emotionally driven decisions, with equal success and failure. The conclusion to be drawn is that logic and emotion working in conjunction is simply the start of the process of understanding rather than the end result. Those who lead may succeed by winning hearts and minds, but genuine leadership comes from a balance between the two that guides a leader in making the tough decisions – especially if it is an unpopular, yet correct, one to follow. This is what faces today’s generation as they look to lead the world into the future.

©2007 Steve Sagarra