Being Irrational

Author Colin Wright addresses irrationality in his book Some Thoughts About Relationships. He dives into what irrationality looks like in our daily lives, and extends irrationality to relationships and our behaviors and actions in relationships. He writes, “Being irrational means that you rely on a storyline to make things right: that if you just believe hard enough, want it bad enough, or go through enough struggle, life will work itself out. No assessment possible, no change necessary.”

 

Wright’s views on irrationality really resonate with me. There is certainly nothing wrong with living ones life based on stories, in fact it is truly unavoidable no matter how rational one becomes (human rights, money, and political parties are useful stories in our lives, but they are stories none the less). Striving for rationality however, means that you are willing to examine the stories that shape your outlook, and you are willing to take your own responsibility for the shape and direction of your life, your community, and the world. Falling back on stories and believing that life is beyond your control and the result of forces that can’t be understood may align with reality in some way, but it leaves us in a place where conscious and active thought is meaningless, and our decisions, behaviors, and actions are instead guided by emotion, perspective, and impulsiveness resulting from the stories we tell ourselves about the world.

 

What Wright encourages us to do, is to build more reflection and awareness into our lives to be able to begin living in a more rational manner. Thinking more clearly and striving to be rational gives you more control over the stories that you tell yourself about the world. Irrational behavior lacks continuity and can be hijacked by people who make emotional arguments, rouse up fear, or present a particular story that highlights only part of reality. Living irrationally in relationships can be damaging since both parties may begin to rely on their own stories and perspectives as opposed to relying on reflection, measured decisions, and shared understandings of decisions and behaviors.

The Power of a Wide Vision

James Harmon’s book Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation From People Who Know a Thing or Two is a collection of letters that Harmon received when he asked creative people for advice. The advice came from writers, poets, independent film actors, and artists.  Poet Robert Creeley was one of the writers who gave Harmon advice and he started his letter with, “What seems most significant is the way in which one takes the world as existing.” What I believe that the poet is saying is that our individual ways of thinking about the world, our place in it, and how things work, is the most important difference between us.
The poet continues his quote adding that our interpretation of the world is impacted most heavily by the time, place, and people around us at birth.  In my mind this means that our economic, social, and political status at birth and as we grow to young adults will impact how we view the world.  What is powerful about this quote is that it opens up the idea that we can all have different perceptions of the world, and that our perceptions are built by factors that we do not control.
This is why having a broad view of the world and a strong sense of awareness is important.  Being able to understand that we have individual biases that shape our outlook on life allows us to look at the world from new perspectives. When you have only a narrow view of the world it becomes easy to criticize people for not living a certain way, or not thinking in a specific manner.  Opening up your awareness and seeing the world from a wider lens that captures the viewpoints and understands the backgrounds of others will help one have more empathy for others, and more appreciation for the life they live.