Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Standing on our Heads

We need to spend more time standing on our heads.

Now I like keeping myself well informed. I get lots of emails and feeds from all over the place. I read two quality magazines every month, and Guardian Weekly every week. I watch lots of documentaries on the telly – mainly BBC4. I live in a house full of books.

All this information fills my head and makes me feel bright and light and I feel as though my head has become like a hot air balloon floating serenely through the sky. But then the wind blows and I am thrown this way and that. Should I do this? Should I do that? Should I ignore that? How important is this? Just what ought I to do?

The trouble with information is that it has no purchase on us – it is what we have been told, not what we have felt. We Quakers have a word for this – we call it 'notions'. But we are so caught up in the western enlightenment idea that thinking is the most significant thing we do, that we do not realise that thinking on its own is mere notions. Stuff we have read in books or found using Google. We have been taught that feelings are at best unreliable, and possibly downright dangerous. Stick to the facts and you can't go wrong. Yet until we actually experience anything for ourselves, and thereby engage our feelings first, we cannot effectively act on anything.

When we do engage our feelings, and know we need to act, we Quakers have a word for this as well – we call it having a 'concern'. We are no longer worried about whether we ought to do this or that – we are driven by our deepest emotions to get on with it without question. There is no thought about whether this is the right thing to do or not – you just know, in a place beyond thinking and mere words.

However, our feelings come from our bodies and flow down into the earth that is our home, leaving our heads up in the air.

So stand on your head and be rooted to the earth, and let the passion and drive in your groin and the fire and anger in your belly and the love and pain in your heart flow down into your head and displace all those mere thoughts.

2 comments:

Ray said...

I've been reading a passage from Kathryn Shulz's "Being wrong - adventures in the margin of error", in which she questions the notion that we can "think for ourselves".

"... bluntly put, we can't. Everyone of us is profoundly dependent on other people's minds - so profoundly that if we took seriously the charge to think for ourselves, we would have to relinquish our faith in the vast majority of things we think we know. in his "Confessions" Augustine wrote that -

"I began to realise that I believed countless things which I had never seen or which had taken place where I was not there to see - so many events in the history of the world, so many facts about places and towns which I had never seen, so much that I believed on the word of friends or doctors or various other people. Unless we took these things on trust, we should accomplish absolutely nothing in this life."

And this was well before the industrial revolution... and the coming of the information highway.. and Google.

Which leads one to ponder where we put our ultimate trust (faith)...?

Maurice Bartley said...

This is great stuff, Gordon and Ray's comment adds to it. Would that we could take this journey from the head to the heart. Trust our deepest feelings more than the notions in our heads.
Our intellects and Science do not teach us moral values just whether something is true or false at a thinking level!
It is our emotions that ultimately teach us the rightness or wrongness of our actions and the values that we live by.