Reason.

Wow, long time no post. Been a bit busy. (For those 2 ppl who read my blog.)

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Every Friday/Saturday night, at around 1-2 AM, our floor lights up. Three groups of people, each doing their own thing, clash at this critical juncture: those who are sleeping, those who are in their rooms twiddling thumbs, and those who come back from the frats. The third group makes the second group laugh, and the first group angry. And when daylight comes the next day, only the first two groups remember anything about it.

Of course I’m talking about the drunken heaps of people that stumble into our floor after a night of beer pong or whatever. Many of them have blacked out; in other words, the next morning, they don’t remember a thing. Which makes me wonder: what would happen if we were to lose our memory, if we had to live day by day, minute by minute, not knowing what just happened an hour ago… just stuck eternally in a moment in time, without knowledge of the past nor expectation of the future? What substance, what incredible joy derived from experience, would we have lost from life?

What an incredibly chilling vision.

I think I’ve made a nice case for our pre-frontal lobe and our hippocampus. They are truly our most valuable packs of cells in our body. Without them, life would have no meaning. Everything other cell would toil and work for nothing. Life would no longer be lived. But not only that, they allow us to reason. Think about a baby, or maybe a black-widow spider. Think about how they react to situations. The baby cries, the black widow bites. They don’t know why they do it, it’s just programmed into them. Coming out of the mother’s womb, the baby hasn’t learned that crying will get him what he wants, that comes later. The spider doesn’t remember that biting will save its life. In the beginning, nothing has been learned, nothing has been remembered, and no knowledge exists. Only what has been programmed in exists. (No, we’re not a blank slate either, so don’t go Locke on me.)

And so therein lies the distinction between instinct and reason. The former is a reaction to what has been programmed, whereas the latter is a reaction to what has been learned and remembered.  All living creatures have the former; what separates us from everything else, what makes us special, is the latter. For some odd reason, we weren’t just programmed with instinct, but we were gifted with reason.

This is an important distinction to make. Instinct is something we do for self-preservation. From the Christian notion of sinful nature to the Darwinian view of Survival of the Fittest, every major world view/theory comes back to this concept, because as animals, we have this inside of us. On the other hand, reason is something we do that incorporates a larger picture, a type of knowledge that we humans have gathered and remembered, to create what we believe is an informed view of reality. Being human is having that capability to reason.

(Note that the keyword is “what we believe”… I believe there are three stages of reason, from ignorance to knowledge to wisdom, that affect our reasoning in different ways. That’s for a later post.)

If you couldn’t tell already, I’m a big proponent of reason. Instinct is thinking small; reasoning is thinking big. Of course, there are instances when our reason is skewed and our instinct is appropriate, such as when we have a split second to make a decision and thus cannot spend time compiling a picture. But I think, as these creatures gifted with memory, it’s important for us to take our reasoning ability seriously, and use it well. There is a reason why we scoff at those who act upon every slight impulse. Remember the drunk example in the beginning of this (now seeing as it is) dissertation? In fact, going back to that, it’s not only memory that enables us to live life. Reason makes it so much richer.

Why is this important? Because of what hinders reason: emotion. The stronger the emotion, the bigger the hindrance. And what more could be stronger than our most innate, programmed emotion? Yes, I’m talking about love. No, no no, scratch that. Love is an improper word. Love is not even an emotion, it’s a dedication. So what’s that word….?

Lust. Oh yeah, that’s it.

Yeah, that feeling of “ZOMG WHATTA CUTE GIRL”, don’t you realize in retrospect how elementary that attachment is? To be completely enveloped by a feeling of helplessness, for your mind to be completely taken… control… of…. by one person? Anybody with a slight inkling of reason knows that there are more than 3 billion females on this planet and a world much bigger than one single person.

(Another side note: I’m not talking about last night, to you know who; I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time.)

Granted, I’m not an emotionless person. Love may not be an emotion, but it does involve it, so it requires an unreasonable amount of time and effort to maintain. Yet it and the emotion of joy enrich life as much as the ability to reason. I guess in some ways, both reason and emotion are derived from memories. “Remember that one time we laughed so hard that you snorted and I farted?  Haha!” But the problem arises when emotion completely overwhelms reason. That is something to be cautious of, because without reason, the human part of us melts away, and we are left with nothing but that self-serving instinct at the core of our animalistic programming.

So there, this is why I responded with “reason” during the Thanks card we wrote after TC. Let’s be gracious of our reason, and let’s be careful to not let ourselves destroy it in critical times. It’s not too late to be in Thanksgiving for what we have been gifted with, which, according to Pastor Ed, means being in remembrance of it!

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