Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Follow your heart or your mind?

This next thought is cryptic, I know. I learned in yeshiva that a person should use his mind to govern his heart, because the heart is driven by temptation while the mind is driven by intellect.

Tonight I had to make a decision on something that came up in a thought of mine where it was the other way. My mind played tricks on me and used my beliefs about how everything always turns out good in the end, among other belief systems I have firmly planted -- but my mind used it to drive me to decide one way. My heart, on the other hand, knew the right and moral thing to do and was not sending me any signals of temptation.

The trick for me to decide when I get into scenarios like this is to look at which is tempting me with desire -- my heart or my mind? Whichever is causing the desire, that is the party that loses the case. I decide to go with the organ that is not tempting me because I trust that it is not deceiving me like the other is (who is utilizing desire, my favorite "sin", to tempt me).

Usually it is my heart that really feels the need for whatever I am seeking out at the time; my mind usually knows the logical answer that is in line with my goals. Tonight my mind used my goals as a negotiating tool to stimulate desire and urge me to side with its logic. But I knew from my beliefs that what it was telling me was dead wrong, and that going with my heart would produce the result that is in line with my goals and my beliefs.

So when the roles are flipped as they were for me tonight, and the mind is the one that was causing the desire, would it be better to have gone with the heart who knew the true answer? or would it have been better to side with the mind who had my goals' interests in mind? Here tonight I sided with my heart because here I can guarantee you my devious mind would have gotten me and others in trouble.


kermitt10 said...

As you know from your kabblah/chasidut studies, their is a strong duality in nature.
this can be described in many ways - body/soul, form/function, chesed/gevurah, yin/yang...
however you want to describe it, it all seems to boil down to the same thing -
nothing is ever 100% this or 100% that.
everything in God's creation is shades of gray not black or white.

the 7 weeks of the omer highlight this a bit: each of the seven sefirot (attributes - power, kindness, beauty, honor etc.) are focused on for an entire week, each day further focusing on one aspect of or combination with the seven. (not six - kindness can be combined with power but also with kindness itself).

Sometimes you think your heart is speaking but it might really be your head and vice-versa.

in my own life, the strongest example of the tension is exercise: I know that it's good for me, but a lot of the time (okay 99.99% of the time) I'd rather kick my shoes off and read a spy novel or something (just as a diversion - not to learn anything)
I usually end up giving in to this baser instinct - though I Think that's because Isaac Newton taught me that an object at rest tends to stay at rest - unless acted upon by an outside force.

However, my own failings aside: I know what's right and wrong i just don't care.
How do I know? I'm not sure, but I think we just have to take a step back, divorce ourselves from the immediate, and try to look objectively.

kermitt10 said...

Another thought on the head/heart dichotomy...

(Another thought from the Rav - R. Soloveichik - or at least my own interpretation based on his idea)

...in the early chapters of the torah, we follow the family of abraham and sarah and their children and granchildren:

most of the time, the men are the leaders, the families go where the males lead (men are more rational).

This implies that most of the time we should follow our heads

However, in times of urgency, the women without fail takeover:
Sarah throws ishamael out - and abraham sheepihly obeys;
Rebecca ensures that the birthright will go to jacob and Isaac is powerless to lead elsewhere;
Rachel determined to protect her sister's honor, cunningly dupes jacob. (women are more emotional)

This implies that in urgent situations we should follow our emotions - our hearts.
because in those times our rationality is doomed to fail.

Again, however, I think the idea (from my last post) of head being tempered with heart and heart being tempered with head should be kept in mind.

Zoe Strickman said...

> "Sometimes you think your heart is speaking but it might really be your head and vice-versa."

Hindsight, there was truth to this comment regarding this situation.

My mind was telling me that everything looked good, and my heart was feeling fear and hesitation because something felt wrong. I thought my heart was telling me to make an emotional decision and pass up on a good opportunity because a better one might have been around the corner. It's like the old TV game shows, where someone would pass up on the prize behind door #1 which was revealed, to risk the possibility of the hidden prize behind door #2. That's what I thought my heart was telling me.

In truth, it sensed there was a problem and that as good as everything looked and seemed, what my mind thought was so wonderful, my heart saw beneath the skin and warned me, but I didn't understand its message.

A friend told me two days ago that the value to fear is that sometimes it can sense things that the other faculties of the body cannot recognize.