Question of the Day (Inspired by the Red-headed Stranger)

I’m currently reading The Tao of Willie:  A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart, with “Willie” being the great Willie Nelson, musician and songwriter extraordinaire.

As you might guess from the title, the book, coauthored by Nelson and Turk Pipkin, elucidates the singer’s philosophy of life, which was strongly influenced by Buddhist and Taoist tenets, and includes lots of autobiographical details.

In one of the early chapters, Willie states that the mind must be the “servant” of the heart.  He follows that up by repeatedly saying that the wisdom which comes from intuition and other forms of “emotional knowing” is more trustworthy and valuable than that which results from the employment of cold, dispassionate reasoning.

Is Willie right?  Is intuition the greatest type of knowing?  Is knowing with the “gut” greater than knowing with the brain? Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your responses.  

42 thoughts on “Question of the Day (Inspired by the Red-headed Stranger)

  1. I think you need the head and the gut; the conscious head to steer you toward interest, and unconscious the gut to digest it, make associations, and nudge you along in creativity.

  2. I have been brought up on the statement of “Going with your gut feeling.” But there have been times that my gut has not always been right. That when I have gone with my intuition. Well sometime that is not always right either. So what is the real greatest type of knowing?
    I guess that comes with experience as well. Some situations in front of us have a per-determined outcome no matter which way we go. That’s how we learn from experience.
    Is Willie right? I guess in some ways he is.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I think we need to distinguish between intuition and emotion. When I try to make a decision while being emotional, I often screw up. Emotions cloud judgement, so I tend to distrust my emotions. Intuition, though, is another thing entirely. I’m not even sure it’s even fair to associate intuition with the gut. What do you think? What, exactly, is “intuition”?

      1. Very true. Emotionally judgements can cloud the decisions. It’s based mostly on our feelings. When the intuition is more conscious reasoning and less feelings.

  3. I believe your gut (Which actually is your intuition) is my Northern Star. As a Highly Sensitive Person, and INFJ, my intuition is larger and more intuned with both the physical and spritual worlds. That’s how I’ve been designed. I would say, however, those who are not either of these should resort to pairing the head with the intuition.

      1. Yep! Very interesting to take those quizzes and see how accurate they are or are or not. Mine was pretty damn accurate. 😂

    1. Love this, Nova. Me, too — a tried-and-true INFJ. And I love that you brought that forward, along with the HSP mention. It’s hard to shut down the power of intuition. It’s just there and how fun to know that you, Todd and I have that Myers-Briggs type in common. 😉😉😉

      1. Hi. How are things? It’s amazing how many INFJ people there are on this thread. I wonder if “intuition” is kind of “thinking” that’s not rooted in the mind? I’ve been thinking about what intuition might be since this conversation got started. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      2. Things are good! Hope all is well with you, too! And yes…the INFJs are the fun intuitive types – so cool to see that pop up in discussion on your post! 😉😉😉

    2. I like your word “pairing.” It suggests you’re not an either/or thinker. I think I need to see where I fall on the personality scale. I likely am an INFJ person myself. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

  4. I have a hard time believing my “gut” over my brain because sometimes I feel insecurities cause the biggest emotional response, and to let that govern my action or behavior would be sabotage.

    1. Hi. How are things? I agree, but I think there’s an important difference between intuition and emotionality. I think my academic training taught me to rely heavily on my mind. When I’m in a type of emotional extreme, I tend to make poor decisions that eventually lead to regrets of one type or another. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. In my younger years, I always thought I was using my brain and logic to make decisions. However, now that I’m older, I trust my gut way more. Maybe like someone else said above this change is due to experience. I don’t really know, but I have a gut feeling that Willy is correct! 🙂

    1. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times in previous responses, I’m now curious about “intuition.” What is it? Where is it “located”? Is it a form of “thinking.” What do you think? Thanks.

    1. I love the “at least not by much” qualifier. Well said, Kendra.

      I think I go with my gut – provided that I don’t overthink it and then obscure what my gut initially said!

  6. The questions you pose do have answer. I’ve been training people to develop their intuitive nature for years. This article of mine may help some who still remain puzzled.

    Intuition -the Inner Voice
    Intuition is a word in common usage; our dictionary defines it as meaning “The power of the mind by which it immediately perceives the truth of things without reasoning or analysis”. To the man in the street, it’s the “bluebird” of thought, an unexpected bonus answer to a problem or need, a warning signal, an insight to the “real” situation yet to be consciously understood.
    Everybody is intuitive – I will go further and say that all soul bearing forms of life have intuitional ability i.e., all forms of life that have awareness of self being. Man, in his present state is a poor conductor of this power because he has chosen to regard the intuitive principle as an ad hoc phenomenon; at best as a right brain mechanism serving the left [logical] brain. Thought which is not reasoned, or does not pass the logical test, is relegated to the servitude of imaginative influences only and at worst is regarded as irrational. As a consequence, our normal thinking modes limit and distort the intuitive flow of information into waking consciousness.
    A person is described as sensitive if they react strongly to physical, emotional, and mental stimuli – if you think about it we are all sensitive in some department of our life at some time or other.. Sensitivity is associated with inspiration, or you might call it subjective awareness; getting to “know” without the conscious where-with-all to explain it. Inspirational conditions can be induced by contemplating, for example, works of art… or the object of ones’ love, by concentrating exclusively upon a subject or idea; like getting an engine to the peak of revolutions- and the turbo cuts in. On the other hand, if the conscious mind behaves like an automaton and a so-called mental vacuum is created, intuition can function in “the space”. Such conditions are the basis of human intuitive communication.
    Here are some examples… Lady is doing the housework; she has done it so many times before it can be done without consciously thinking. She gets a sudden thought to ring her sister thinking she is in trouble of some kind.. No evidence to support such assumptions -she was happy and contented the last time they spoke. She rings and “discovers” a distressed sister on the line.
    A man drives to work; has done it many times, always the same route. He usually listens to the radio – today he is not. At the cross-roads, he takes a different route -just feels right to do that and feels it would be wrong to go the normal way. As he makes his way to work he thinks of an “excuse” for this change of habit. Later he discovers that due to an accident on his normal route the traffic was jammed up for hours…
    A man is bothered by his “imagination” – recurrent pictures of his father, seemingly wanting to communicate. They start as he wakes up and continue intermittently all morning. He dismisses this because he spoke with his father only recently, he is well and there are no questions outstanding between them. Our man is working and doesn’t have time to for sleep induced distractions. At lunchtime, all is still; no more pictures! Inexplicably he starts to worry about it. The telephone rings… he is told that his father was taken to hospital early in the morning and passed away before noon.
    A woman is unwell; she has taken to her bed and has dosed herself up with medication. Every time she nods of too sleep something urges her to wake up, eventually she sits up and gets the impression that maybe something is not right in the kitchen… She goes to investigate and finds the gas is on unlit and there is a danger of explosion.
    These are examples from everyday “ordinary” man and woman. Thousands more could be given, little things, large things – they all stem from the same unreasoned, unprompted source of information – the intuitive nature. What about the artist and scientist – do they get intuitive inputs? Consider the following examples. An artist begins work on painting a picture, he has a modernistic impressionist education of artistic influence – he expects to produce from that background. The preparatory drawings give nothing but dissatisfaction – finally in frustration he bins the lot and goes to the pub… After drink number three he has relaxed and forgotten his problems, then starts to get entirely different images of painting than those conceived in the studio. The artist gets drunk and the “inspiration” is lost. The following morning in the “hung-over” studio he starts to draw vaguely familiar pictures – entirely different from his previous attempts they prove to be the basis of his painting composition. He is now in “discovery mode” and goes on to complete a painting which marks a departure from his previous work.

    The scientist is working on a problem that requires mathematical expression. Repeated attempts bring him to the same impasse as before. He goes over it again – this time taking each element of the formulae and reviewing its possibilities part by part, time passes, the end of the working day comes and goes without notice… his concentration gets more intense.. Suddenly the penny drops. He has been thinking about it in the wrong way. Something entirely new is required… Exhausted he goes home to bed. The following day before getting to the lab the whole answer forms in his mind. He stops the car; scribbles the essential formulae down on the back of a newspaper. The days work has been done… maybe more than a days’ worth.
    These examples (as could thousands of others) are all alike in one respect, the procession of events causing the flow of intuition are fortuitous – in other words the individuals have not determined the conditions – they have unwittingly allowed them. It’s not surprising therefore to realise that most people regard hunches, weird feelings, and fey thoughts as a bonus when they give good results and a curse if they are messengers of woe. The mental and emotional conditions to facilitate and recognise intuition can be developed… indeed it has to be, if communicating your soul awareness is going to be a service to others.
    Intuition is the Souls’ natural method of expressing inner awareness -brain mind reasoning is the personality’s conscious world expression of knowledge. The two methods are as unlike as chalk is to cheese… yet in the right time and place they can be compatible.

    Paul is talking about intuition when he speaks in Corinthians 13 v 9.10.
    “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part,
    But when that which is perfect is come,
    Then that which is in part is done away”.

    We can’t possibly set our minds to work in this manner all the time… can you imagine what would happen at work, when driving, crossing the road, using a sharp instrument, if we were to adopt a passive form of conscious expression and allow it to happen? Or if the other mode of concentration was used, could we not end up unable and unaware of our life’s needs – more of a liability rather than an asset?
    The world we live in is geared to consciously reasoned activities – yet we have to admit that it’s the “unexpected” which puts zest into life. When life is “samey” you can be sure it lacks the action of a mystery. When you understand how to make intuition work for you – then with control and in recognition of your conscious limitations, you can enrich your life and others too.

    1. Hi. How are things? How was your trip? All this has got me wondering. I wonder if the “gut” is just another “thinking” part of us that’s not located in the head or “mind”? Thanks for the comment.

      1. I still have a kind of allergy that gives me spots on my skin. Tomorrow I’ll look for a dermatologist. It’s not itching but I don’t understand the origins. Thank you for asking 😌

  7. I often grapple with the question of which is stronger, or better: intuition or rationality. One of the leading social psychologists today, Jonathan Haidt, says that the emotional tail wags the rational dog. But, on the other side, Daniel Kahneman’s work, detailed in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, describes how much of our intuition is faulty and more often than not leads to poor decision making over rationality. As much as I embrace a Stoic-rational way of living, I’ve argued in other places that, sometimes, rationality can be over-rated. Willie is one of my all-tine favorite musicians. I’ve seen him 7 times in concert over the last 25 years. While it is easy for me to want to agree with him, I am also torn by my rational-leaning mentality. I think, to his point, our intuitions are the culmination of every part of our being in a particular moment and place. They often draw on much of our prior knowledge. Even Kahneman acknowledges that feat. You’ve given me food for thought.

    1. Those of us in academics get turning into thinking machines. We learn to “analyze” things. If we make an assertion about something, a mentor will ask us to provide “evidence” in support of our contention. Back in the day, I would have been chided if I had claimed to simply “feel” or “intuit” something to be the way that it is.

      I do think we have to separate feelings from intuition. I’ve made some really bad decisions because I was distraught or angry or giddy when I made them. Intuition seems to be a kind of “thinking” that’s not rooted in the mind.

      I need to read more about intuition–where its seated, what it is, etc.

      Could intuition simply be rooted in experience? Our intuition get stronger as we experience more things? At some point, we can think with our “guts” because our experience tells us that when X happens, Y results, and Z should be my response?

      1. I like the questions you posed. Kahneman, in my understanding, would agree that our intuitions are rooted in our experience. For example, he describes a veteran firefighter who “just knew” there was going to be a fire. His intuition told him. He was correct. The pre-fire indicators that he had come to recognize through years of experience culminated in that moment to “intuit” that there was going to be a fire.

        In a nutshell, Kahneman sees intuition as meaning “knowing something without knowing how we know it.” In this sense, we can say intuition is pattern recognition. The more you have seen, say of a chess game or card hands etc., the easier it is to see patterns and make judgments about them. The implications of this realization are why those who have expert-level experience will likely appear to make decisions faster. They have more sights (patterns) in their rear-view mirror.

  8. Hello Troy! Though short, this is a compelling read. My natural state of being is usually to think things through with logic as much as I can before allowing emotion to guide me. I allow myself to feel whatever I will feel in any given situation, but usually try to leave that to the side in decision making.

    In some stressful situations which require focus and quick decisions based on facts, such as a last minute field goal in the Superbowl, this might serve one well. In other situations, in different game scenarios, players following their intuition, or gut feelings, can lead to big unexpected payoffs. And at times like enjoying a night out at the cinema, deeply feeling the emotions evoked by the film might help us enjoy the experience more.

    I haven’t provided a particularly cohesive answer to your question, but I am enjoying mulling it over as I work today.

    Thank you for sharing this. And Happy New Year to you and yours, many prayers for a stupendous year! 😊

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