[Some pontification, as a mental warm-up to being surrounded by some seriously deep thinkers this week]

There are a couple of episodes in my life that blew my mind- figuratively, and perhaps even literally. Core to these have been an established, self-built mental construction about a person or situation that has been forced to collapse very quickly. These have predominantly centred around broken trust.

It’s an intrinsic human trait to rationalise in order to understand- to fit our impressions of the world into a coherent schema; with discrete, logical steps bridging any complexity. We may well create fiction along the way to cope with any cognitive dissonance within our world view.

Very occasionally, rationalisation isn’t possible- particularly where a situation has a strong emotional component. The conscious mind rapidly bounces between aspects, without being able to resolve any of them.

I’ve recognised quirks in my own cognitive behaviour, which have been triggered by incoherence. Some of these attempt to rectify, others are simply a side-effect. These have included:

  • Invention – a willingness to accept facts that are clearly untrue
  • Appeal – entertaining a divine, or out-worldly cause (I have never been religious)
  • Obsession – an inability to mentally focus on anything but the incoherence
  • Lockdown – an inability to mentally focus on anything at all, including the incoherence

The practical truth is that ‘some things just don’t make sense’ – this is a naturally difficult, but powerful tool, to adopt.

Most of us subscribe to a fundamental model of the physical world, where causes have direct, observable, and traceable effects. This is extremely useful and very empowering (pretty much essential for our daily operation, actually) – and I think we’d like to believe that we can apply this sort of computation elsewhere. But why is it necessarily true that all human actions have an understandable trigger, and all causes have a logical effect on people’s emotions?

Some primal emotions can be be rationalised as basic stimulus-response affairs (happiness, pain response). Other emotions may require a little more explanation (fear, awe). Can some be irrational enough, or too complex for us to logically work through?

Alongside the obvious – love (thanks, Spock!), perhaps we can include duty, respect…?

When the alternative is mental flip-flopping, and a first-class ticket on the train to madness, this is the most worthy mantra:

Some things just don’t make sense!