Monday, February 25, 2008

Intuition is analysis compressed and crystallized

The blog title is a quote from The Wisdom Paradox by Elkhonon Goldberg. The fact that life happened and it's taking me a while to finish is not an indication of my interest in this book. It's about the neurology of memory and thinking and why we can acquire wisdom that more than makes up for any cognitive losses as we age.

I'm a big fan of wisdom.

Increasingly, I am also a fan of intuition. It was not always the case. I was, and am, a very disciplined thinker. I like analysis. I like to know why. Fortunately, I cut my intellectual teeth on poetry. In poetry, intuition is the way into analysis. Good readers are not players - they are playing fields. They notice what is happening as a poem takes to the field, and then they can analyze why it happens.

You can't read a poem the other way around. There is no way to construct a unified whole from bits of metaphor and rhythm and literary allusion. You have to start with the whole in order to appreciate that it is a whole.

Poetry is thinking compressed and crystallized. It's a pattern for understanding how we understand.

Begin with the whole. Notice and appreciate your intuition. Then verify it, if necessary. There are always reasons for the 'hunch' or the 'feeling' that responds instantly to a situation. You can track them through sensory information and references to other experience and rational analysis.

Just don't forget that the advantage of intuition is the speed and ease with which it processes complicated situations. If you analyze it too often, you give up the edge that your intuition is giving you.

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