Blink!

I just listened to the book "Blink!" by Malcolm Gladwell a few weeks ago. I downloaded the book from Audible.com which is a great way to get through a book quickly.

The book itself was fascinating. Gladwell has made some amazing observations about the subconscious mind and its ability to key in on information and come to conclusions that the conscious mind may not identify for some time, if ever. He draws examples from many different arenas in life such as art, relationships, sports, medicine, and even finance. Gladwell doesn't necessarily try to come to concrete conclusions about the subconscious mind, he simply points out some of its capabilities and the way it is helping us make it through life despite our lack of awareness of its involvement.

I think this book helped me to see a couple of things more clearly. One is the way in which our mind disagrees with itself. Let me explain. One of the examples from the book looked into the concept of "speed dating" where dozens of people spend just a couple of minutes getting to know a person and then move on to another person when a bell rings. Kind of like musical chairs. At the end of the process people indicate who they liked most and if that person showed an interest in them as well, the organizers of the date will set up another meeting between them.

When "daters" were asked what they look for in a person, it never lined up with what they ended up choosing at the end of the "speed date". There is one level in our minds that thinks one way, but another level that wants something different.

One mind, I've noticed, is a short-term oriented, pleasure seeking, instant gratification, self-centered mind. The other is more long-term, delayed gratification, disciplined, other's oriented mind.

For me this concept manifests something like this: "we are going to stop spending more than our budget." But then my wife and I see something we like and suddenly the budget doesn't matter, only that we want something. Another manifestation goes like this: "I am not eating any more junk food!" But then, somebody offers that oh so beautiful chocolate chip cookie and I forget completely that I promised myself I wouldn't eat that junk. There is a disagreement between me and myself.

The bible describes this discrepancy as the war between the spirit and the flesh. Paul wonders, "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do." (Romans 7:15) How many 12 steps groups are trying to help people align what they say they want with what they actually do? I've often thought that if I could just do what say I want to do, then there is no limit to what I could accomplish.

Blink points out that we act on our true beliefs, the ones held at the subconscious level. For example, a young girl may say she plans on saving herself until marriage, but if "wounds" she has received from her father in the form of, "you're ugly, no one will ever want you," fill her subconscious mind, she might act in a way that disagrees with her pronouncement that she plans on waiting until marriage.

I think much of our adult life is spent trying to align these two minds. We marvel at the bad choices people make. I bet in nearly every case, the person didn't think they would make such bad choices, such as cheating on their wives or regularly drinking too much. We do what we do not want to do. Well, kind of - we do at one moment what we do not want to do in another moment. At the moment we do the wrong thing, we want that "thing" more than anything else in the world. We trade a momentary pleasure for long term pain. Instant gratification rather than success in life. We throw away the real blessings of life in exchange for the pleasure of the moment. Ouch.

But we know what we're doing. And most of us are working on fixing it. As we age we start to see the damage we're doing by our lack of discipline and strive to improve it. As God helps us heal from the wounds we've gathered over the course of our lives, he does this by helping us to learn how to make good choices - and stick with those choices even when we don't feel like it.

Honestly, this is why freedom is so important, why each person must have the space to live their own lives. As we mature, we learn how to take dominion over the self-centered mind. How? By having the liberty to live self-centered for awhile. If you never got to eat junk food, you wouldn't really learn the value of eating well. If the government takes away your freedom to smoke cigarettes, you won't be able to come to your own conclusions about why you don't want to smoke anymore. Some people can learn without first trying something. Others can't. But if the government steps in and tells us how to live, it steals our dignity and forces us into living according to another's vision of the world - which may or may not suit us and may be wrong, or even evil.

Blink was a fascinating book. The insights you'll gain from it will go beyond what I noticed and will probably be geared toward those things you've gone through. It's a good book, and I recommend it.

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