202. heart vs mind

I’m hanging out with a friend who’s about to get her PhD in Psychology. And I haven’t seen her in a while (other than the time I bumped into her two weeks ago which is kind of how we ended up hanging that night) and I’m having a blast asking her all kinds of questions about psychology and culture and church and Christianity. And then I share with her, something that I’ve always been curious about – brilliant people falling in love. And I used the movie, A Beautiful Mind, as an example. I shared with her how I’ve always found it fascinating that someone as brilliant as John Nash would fall in love.

I suppose the fascination came from an image that I had of geniuses that painted them as passionless analytical minds, wrestling with arcane, intractable problems. For some reason, the thought that such a mind would subject itself to the wild passions of love seemed incongruous to me. And my friend called me out on that issue by asking me something along the lines of, “why do you think brilliant people are immune to love?”

And I was stumped.

Looking back now, I suppose that it was kind of silly to impose that disconnect between the mind and the heart. See, I think I was unknowingly buying into a kind of dualism where intellect and emotion were at odds with one another and so, in my mind, someone with a gigantic brain would have little to do with emotions and the same would be true the other way around.

But I think I know how I ended up with this misshapen idea. Okay, think about a time when you fell in love, and I mean fell HARD? You basically became a blathering idiot – reason and rationale evaporated and you were left wandering in a turbulent wasteland where wonder and desire clashed and warred (or maybe that’s just my experience with love). It seems like the antithesis of reason.

And on the flip side, I think of people who work in think tanks, people who spend their time in front of dusty chalkboards white from ideas tasted then jettisoned, rubbed out into the ether of eraser dust. To me, these people love number and data and algorithm – the solidity and certainty of formula, of theorem and postulate. I thought they would have no patience for the messy uncertainty of love.

But now I think of Spock and Data from Star Trek. Spock tried to rid himself of emotion through discipline and logic but there were times when he let his love for his fellow crew influence him in ways that betrayed his logical paradigm (and I’m no Trekkie so don’t ask me for examples). On the other hand, Data was, by definition, a product of logic circuits (a computer), but he was always fascinated by human emotion and tried to emulate it through behavioral study.

I wonder now how (cow brown) these characters both reinforce and undercut the disconnect between intellect and emotion. How one tries to suppress his emotions through discipline and how the other is created without emotions but yearns for them.

And I’m not sure how yet, but I think this misunderstanding (that the heart and the mind are at odds) has something to do with the chaos and injustice of the world today. I mean this whole postmodern unrest has its roots in a distrust of the heady, mechanical cosmology of modernism. But we don’t need to discard the mind in order to embrace the heart, we need to find a way to let the two work in concert.

But I’m not sure how, but it sure is fun to think about…more blogs on this to come, I’m sure.

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