“If I go with my gut I will do stupid things”

On episode 7 or Reconcilable Differences, John Siracusa said something that struck me, “If I go with my gut I will do stupid things”.

What John said is at once entirely accurate and entirely misguided and wrong. What John was talking about at the time was trying to make decisions as much as possible with the analytic part of his brain and to not allow emotion, as much as possible, to do his thinking for him. Of course, most people are probably like this to some extent, but I think we can all agree, if we know John at all, that he is quite likely taking this to at least another step up, if not two or three.

And it’s hard to argue with John (Hey, I’ve tried) for two reasons. One, he’s pretty frequently right and two, he’s good at framing his position to ensure that he is right. Not that I fault him for this quality, it is a good quality; admirable, even.

We have all made rash decisions that were ruled by emotion rather than analysis and consideration that have turned out badly. Very badly.

But we have also all made decisions that we decide not to classify as rash, but rather as bold, decisive, maybe even insightful leaps. They were still gut decisions, but they went spectacularly well. Maybe even better than any rational decision could possibly have gone.

Maybe it was a stock purchase that paid off, or a job change that cemented your career. Maybe it was talking to that girl, finally, even though she was way out of your league. (She’s still way out of your league, I can pretty much guarantee it.)

Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

We are all two people. The person that we think of as ‘me’ is the rational intelligent half. The one with the name and the college degree and the one who thinks about things. We can talk to him, reason with him.

But the other person is just as much ‘me’, though it is difficult to think of him that way because he doesn’t think in words, or even thoughts. He is visceral. He thinks in dopamine and adrenaline. He’s hiding behind the scenes dumping drugs into you to get the reactions he wants.

There, see, I can’t even keep the pronounces straight. HE into US.

When you see a pretty girl that piques your interest, that’s not your intellect driving, that’s this crazy muppet squeezing chemicals out of your glands.

And yes, it is foolish to listen to this hairy monster because he’s dumb in the most basic meaning of the word. He can’t talk to you, but he can control you. He can make your scared, happy, sad, jealous, infatuated, and of course, angry.

He can’t make you love. He can make you fall in love. He can drive you to distraction and fill your whole world with thoughts of just one person, but that feeling doesn’t last. It can’t. Love is something more than that.

It is not just hormones and desire, and it’s not just frank analysis and rationality. It is a melding of these two and also something much greater, something limitless, in fact.

But it’s not magic. Loving someone is work, and it takes something from you. Hopefully, it gives back more than it takes, but you can no more decide to be in love (or not) than you can decide to be tall, or a humpback whale.

And I don’t just mean the love of your spouse, but all love. All those close relationships, whether you want to call them love or not, are based on two things, and emotional connection and a analytic connection, which is the only one we tent to acknowledge.

“Why are you two friends?”

“We’re both huge Sportsball fans and we like the same team!”

OK, but millions of people fit that description. Sure, you share something in common, but you do not become friends with everyone you share something in common with.

You need both parts of yourself to be a human being and part of that is acknowledging that both halves of you can make stupid decisions, and that one half makes a far higher proportion of the stupid decision, but sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

Sometimes you just have to give in and jump and see what happens. And sometimes, not often, but sometimes, that jump defines who you are.