The Mistaken Use of the Intellect – April 16 2018

 
Werner [Herzog] told me he once met a champion ski jumper from Norway who one season beat all his adversaries. “He was also an architecture student and the following year wrote his thesis on the construction of ski ramps. He thought so much about those damned things that during the next season he lost every competition he entered.” For Herzog, the moment such meditation enters the equation, when he delves too deep and starts explaining himself, imbalance sets in and creativity is forced aside, or at least clouds over.
from Werner Herzog – A Guide for the
Perplexed: Conversations
with Paul Cronin
 
The one place I am guaranteed never to find God is in my thinking.
Anonymous
 
One of the great mistakes we make in this world is in how we use the intellect. We forever are trying to make sense of the world, of our behavior, of the behavior of those around us. We try to ‘figure things out.’ We spend our time thinking about what we’re going to do, or what we already have done, forever arranging and rearranging the facts to try to get them to come out in a different, happier way.
 
We live in our thinking about the world, rather than in the world itself.
 
This is a misuse of the intellect. 
 
It’s not that the intellect is bad, per se; it’s rather that we use it for a purpose for which it is not designed.
 
Mr. Herzog’s story illustrates the appropriate and inappropriate use of the mind quite beautifully. It’s clear that the Norwegian ski jumper did not think his way to a championship year. He simply did his job, throwing himself down a hill on slippery sticks until hitting the ramp and being thrown into the air to land some 400 feet away, right way down and intact. Not a lot of room for rumination in that equation. Then he moves into his identity as a student of architecture. Undoubtedly his practical experience on the slopes added to his thesis on the construction of ski ramps; but as Mr. Herzog states, “He thought so much about those damned things that during the next season he lost every competition he entered.”
 
The mind is where we take the known and arrange it to its best purpose–planning a trip; scheduling our week or our day; putting together a crib from Ikea. The mind also is where we analyze the past in order to understand what happened and why, and learn how to do it better next time–football players and coaches studying game film; cadets at West Point studying Civil War battles; people in 12 step recovery programs writing inventory of their past sexual/romantic relationships/tragedies in order to plan something better for the future.
 
The mind is not a place where we can think our way down a ski jump. Nor can an NBA guard think his way to the basket. Werner Herzog does not think his way through a film. J.K. Simmons did not think his way through his performance in Whiplash. I cannot think my way to happiness. 
 
In all these activities there is planning, there is study, there is training. The mind plays a part, sometimes to a very great degree. The preparation is absolutely essential to the success of the endeavor. But then there comes that jumping off point where to speculate any further is to take oneself out of the only place from which success can arise–the present moment.
 
In the present moment, it is not our thinking with which we are identified. Rather we are identified with flow, with pattern, with our movement through space, our relationship to the things and people around us, in front of us. We are an ever-changing response to the moment, much of which we do not even register consciously, but which is being used by our creativity to move and feel and see in ways we maybe didn’t know we were capable of until just now.
 
We are magnificent creatures with the ability to be–to live, to create, to experience joy beyond what we even can imagine. By stepping out of the misuse of the mind, again and again and again, we train ourselves to be. And then life becomes fun.
 
Today I will notice when I am using the mind for something other than its purpose. I will notice when I talk myself out of asking my friend or lover a question because my mind tells me he will think I’m stupid. I will notice when I think through my conversation over dinner last night for the fourth time, wondering what she meant when she said “____________.” I will notice when my mind starts to tell me every reason I’m not successful and not happy. I will notice these things, and I will step out of the speculating mind and into present moment awareness; into the loving embrace of nature itself; into the presence of the unfailing guidance of the Divine.

Dancing, Where the Great Ones Run, Rogue Machine Theatre, Los Angeles
All original material copyright © 2018 Jeff Kober