Saturday, October 5, 2013

Reverse Intuition

Sometimes a corrective course of action is called counter-intuitive, which refers to a solution that goes against every immediate knee-jerk reaction for solving the problem at hand.

For example, a swimmer who ignores post-hurricane surf warnings finds himself carried out to sea by a powerful riptide, the karmic result of pride in his prowess. If he is uninformed, the following is likely: he tries to swim like mad to get back to shore like fish headed upstream. But not being a salmon, he might drown from exhaustion.

The counter-intuitive tactic: swim parallel to shore to get out of the current. Although it will carry you further away from shore, swimming parallel to the shore will eventually release you from the cruel grip of this watery speedway, its lane usually no wider than 100 feet.

Or, your car's front end starts sliding to the right on thick ice and intuitively you swirl your steering wheel to the left and slam your foot on the brake. Wrong again, Kimomsabe. One must turn the wheel in the direction you are careening, even if a lampost is looming large in the passenger side window. Additionally, never put the brake pedal to the metal, lest your panicked maneuver result in your waking up without a body.

Based on the above simple but potentially life-saving examples (there are an infinite number more), it appears that counter-intuitive moments are not really the opposite of intuition. Rather, they are insights born of a deep analysis or understanding, unfettered by seemingly logical thoughts - they are solutions based on disregarding former patterns which don't work for the current "what is."

In the case of complex emotional or social issues, the challenge becomes more like a jumbled Rubix cube, which only the lucky few can master. When Franklin D. Roosevelt established the WPA during the Great Depression in what looked like a socialist move to political conservatives, the result was a stronger democracy because it helped the country survive. And don't all good conservatives believe in Amuurica, especially if you come from Texas Republican stock?

For the people who talk about not wanting "big government" and worship "reliance on individualism," they could use a big dose of counter-intuitive insight: the further our people are stripped of all security granted by government protection, the greater the danger of social chaos and anarchy. Universal healthcare, social security, Head Start programs, food stamps and such are not the birth of something right of West Jesus. Humanitarian help from the government is the one thing that will preserve our democracy.

So take that counter-intuitive thought and smoke it, survivalists out there!

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