Monday, 29 May 2017

On The Pursuit Of Mental Excellence

I was just editing one of my books, and stumbled upon some old scraps I'd written years ago - one of which was this little passage about mental pursuit, which I quite liked and thought could bear repeating here:
It seems to me that the pursuit of mental excellence can be thought of as being a bit like getting a plane off the ground and into flight, because consistently solid and comprehensive thinking comes with many components necessary for the task. A pilot has to get all his (or her) dials and instruments in order before he can take off, and keep a check on all the elements associated with aircraft's altitude, air speed, air pressure and rates of ascent and descent.

For a pilot before take off, some of the dials and instruments may be well attuned for flight, but others may not be, thus affecting his ability to fly. Similarly, the human mind may have some of the dials and instruments in the right place but have others set wrongly. Perhaps a person is very logical and rational but is lacking in elements like emotional intelligence, empathy and kindness, so is impulsive and never sees the full picture properly. Or perhaps the person is excellent when it comes to emotional intelligence, empathy and kindness, but has inadequate knowledge or poor reasoning skills. The latter people may well often make arguments based on moral persuasion, sounding caring, but will, in fact, lack the concomitant rationality and proper assessment of the facts.

The human mind can be thought of as something similar to the dials and instruments in the cockpit: to attain mental excellence the mind needs to try to master all sorts of qualities, like logic, analytical intelligence, emotional intelligence, empathy, reason, rationality, lateral thinking, argumentation, assessment of data, wisdom and sound philosophical enquiry - as well as gathering stores of knowledge and understanding, which constitute the oil that lubricates all those proprietary parts. In addition, being truly mentally excellent requires, I believe, qualities like love, kindness, generosity and solicitude too.

There could be quite a bit of (air) mileage in that illustration J