Sunday, April 22, 2012
Choosing carefully how you'll be a fool
― Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man
I gave a guest lecture last week for a class at Northwestern called "Music and the Mind." I presented some recent results suggesting that music may influence working memory, and I discussed these new data with the students.
More importantly to me, I also spent some time talking with the kids about the dangers of believing in the currently accepted scientific "truths." They had just read an article in which the author had stated that the effects of music on cognition were only interesting if they were specific to music and not generalized effects of sensory stimulation. The rest of the paper was based on this assumption, but I wanted the students to question the assumption. Why would it not be interesting if sensory stimulation generally helped improve cognition? Isn't music a convenient form of sensory stimulation to use in that case? They understood and a few even became involved in helping me question my own assumptions.
After the class I began thinking that if we're lucky to live long enough, we're all bound to look like fools for something we've said or done (probably both). The essential question is, how do you want to be a fool? Do you want to be a fool for being too conservative and never considering new ideas? Do you want to be a fool for being too liberal and never questioning new ideas? Or do you want to be a fool for trying to take a middle path, then becoming emotionally caught up in one idea or another and espousing it as if it's a rational, rather than an emotional or subconscious, choice?
It seemed to me that these three are the basic options, and I didn't want to be a fool in any of those ways.
BUT then I was able to remember the ways I want to be a fool.
1) I want to be a fool for allowing my emotion and my subconscious to present intuitive ideas to my conscious mind, and to follow these ideas wherever they lead with rigor and openness.
2) I want to be a fool for admitting that it feels to me that the universe and I are in a relationship.
3) Finally, I want to be a fool for trying to use my relationship with the universe to discover more about the way consciousness works.
So it's worth asking: how do you want to be a fool?