D. Randall Faro
“It just feels right.” Every hear that? Or think that? One must be VERY careful. Most people have experienced feeling a certain way about something and basing a decision – perhaps an important, even life-changing one – on those emotions, and then later discovered that empirical reality painted a distinctly different picture than the gut did.
Example. A white man is in a subway car and the only other passenger is a black man with an afro hairdo and scraggly beard who is not looking too happy. The white guy becomes nervous to the point of nausea and gets off at the next stop, long before where he needs to go. The reality is that the black man is a distinguished law professor at a local university and is on his way to visit his terminally ill child in the hospital. Feeling and facts . . . miles apart.
"We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking." So wrote the indomitable Mark Twain. Thinking is the thing. Serious homework is highly recommended before passing judgment or making momentous decisions. Feelings are, of course, not to be discounted. But when staring-you-in-the-face facts run counter to the emotions, the facts ought to win the battle.
The critical task is to discern actual facts. In David Baldacci’s mystery-thriller, The Fix, the POTUS says to Decker, “We’re fortunate to have someone with your abilities working on our side.” Decker replies, “I just try to get to the truth.” POTUS: “Well, you picked a challenging city in which to do that.”
Ain’t that the truth! Although we could be talking about any city.
Serious homework involving critical thinking. a definition of which is: “Critical thinking: The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment; disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.” To be sure, we have emotional reactions to various facts. But emotional reactions based on something other than reality can and does lead to all kinds of misery.
On the old TV show, Dragnet, Jack Webb often said to an interviewee who verbally wandered: “Just the facts, mam. Just the facts.” I would add that feelings need to be part of the equation . . . but after starting with the facts.