Carl Stewart: thinking in these uncertain times

Thinking in and of itself is challenging enough and it is not easy.  That is because most of the time we are not actually thinking, we are only mentally
reacting.  We are talking “off the top of our head” quoting things we
already know, politically correct points, and from our biases. Thinking comes to you in the six stages of non-thinking which occur before real thinking occurs.   Given that, then add uncertainty. Thinking in our uncertain times with uncertain information and now you have an incredible challenge!

 Take for example the thinking that has been going on regarding the Covid19 virus in the United States. Even though President Trump closed travel to China in January, the information from the CDC and the World Health Organization at that time was that the virus could not be passed from human to human.  Later in late February, Nancy Pelosi criticized Trump for shutting air travel from Europe and telling people to “come to Chinatown” there is nothing to fear.  Later the CDC predicted two million Americans would die if the President did not shut the country down to slow the spread and that was to prevent the hospitals and health care system from being overwhelmed. And in Canada the government thinking is no better.

Since then we keep getting all sort of conflicting information about masks,
treatments, social distancing, vaccines, etc.  There have been lots of
inaccuracies and disinformation and perhaps lies.  The Governor of
California has been over-zealous in forbidding people to go to church to
pray while ridiculously tolerant for allowing protests and riots.  Dr.
Anthony Fauci, who the media looks to for expert answers, has changed his
recommendations 180 degrees over those months.  Lots of uncertainty!

 So given all that ... how are you and I to engage in clear, rational
thinking in contexts of such confusion and uncertainty?  Ah, that is the
question!  Multiply that insecurity, that not-knowing-what’s-going-to-happen
times the economic insecurity, the loss of jobs, the decline of the economy,
the not-knowing-when-we-will-get-back-to-normal- and what do you have?  What we have is the best conditions possible for irrational fearful thinking. And to a great extent, that is what we’re getting.


Up against all of that can you then imagine that a couple of outrageous racial
incidents occur- as we did at the end of May.  Then suddenly, the people who
have been “locked up” at home, fearful, insecure, confused, and irrational
turn into destructive riots that burn, loot, and destroy.  Then that
irrationality gets the “bright idea” that all police everywhere are the
problem and so the “defund the police” irrationality.  Talk about the lack
of clear thinking!  Talk about the lack of critical thinking!

And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, add in the fact that it is political
season when millions cannot think straight or clear anyway, but only through the lens of their political agenda.  Further, some elected officials seem unable to put sanity before party affiliation.  The call for Police Reform was led by an African American Senator, Tim Scott, yet it was rejected outright even though 80% of the reforms is precisely what the Democrats say they want.  Why?  Apparently to have a political issue for the fall election.  Party comes before doing what’s right.

 All of this gives us a formula and what a formula it is!

   Virus      X     Emotions    X    Uncertainty   X   Emotions     X  Politics   =  Mob mentality

 No wonder it is next to impossible for there to be reasonable conversations by reasonable people.  I am talking about people who have the skills to listen to each other, “seek first to understand and then be understood,” and bring compassion into the dialogue.   It is much, much easier to think things through when all is calm, peaceful, and secure.  It becomes increasingly difficult to think clearly when things are stressful, chaotic, and insecure.   Yet that is precisely when we most need the understanding and skills for collaborative conversations.

That means learning to access a state of inner peace and security within
ourselves.  Like everything else human, it is inside-out.  Then we need to
learn the principles and skills of collaborative communication.  The good news is that this is precisely the domain of critical thinking.  This is
what we most essentially must do.

          You must learn how to handle language and non-verbal conversations effectively so you can be clear and precise.  That’s “critical thinking.”  You learn how to be reasonable by learning how to listen from a state of rapport.
 You learn self-communication by which you get yourself in a good
state so that you can listen, care, be clear, be creative, and solve problems.  You must learn to both embrace and manage uncertainty so you can handle it effectively.

And that is the way I see it after complete self isolation.

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