There I was, blue-book in hand, standing in my professor’s office doorway. It was 1978 and the class was Anthropology.
“I just don’t understand how I got a “D” on this exam. I have all the answers you asked for.” I had expected an ‘A’ for some reason.
“Yes,” he says, “you do have everything. I just don’t like the way you say it. My gut told me it wasn’t right.”
That’s it? I got a “D” because he just didn’t like it? I felt ripped off. This is college and he’s grading from his gut? You say potato and God help me, if I say potahto I’m screwed.
No amount of freshman blubbering was going to soften his stance or give me an explanation.
Every day grades are doomed, jobs are lost, lovers are jilted and jerks get the corner office when someone depends on gut instincts to make decisions that deserve more careful consideration. Instinct works well for us in man-versus-bear altercations or speed dating, but I wanted more than a gut response to my exam.
The wisdom of gut instinct is heartily exalted in many areas of life and rightly so. How else would we survive today’s traffic and maneuver through brainless extreme sports? Instinct is a necessary reactionary tool we need to survive.
But how long can we use our instinct before it becomes nothing more than a cerebral cop-out, an unintended homage to our Paleolithic past? At what point does basic gut instinct diverge from its classier sibling called intuition?
In the last few hundred years, human intuition has been shut away in a tower by science and our logical brain. It has been abandoned like a fairy tale character to while away time hidden from the world. Many people don’t wonder about it and would never admit to using it, but it is time we rescue it.
Entrepreneurs claim to use their “gut instincts” with risky investments or endeavors and are admired for it even if the venture fails. But when someone relies on their intuition to help them with decisions, god help them into their little white jacket.
We live day-to-day in the creaking world of Newtonian science. Show us the proof and we will follow it to the grave. At the same time we are tip-toeing around the age of not-so-obvious science, the touchy-feely subsets of new physics, God particles, quantum theories, the stuff you can’t see and not many understand. This is not the obvious world of gut instinct, more like the je ne sais quoi of the Universe.
Dean Radin, author of Entangled Minds, his 2006 book exploring “extrasensory experiences in a quantum reality”, writes that many scientists still regard topics such as intuition and psychic “phenomena” as “forbidden knowledge.” They fear unfunded research and unpublished papers if they cast their efforts into that murky black hole.
But aren’t we really relegating our futures to wallow at the base level of gut instincts if we do not acknowledge intuition? Gut instinct is for basic survival. It is run or die. Intuition offers subtle emotion to back it up. It is sophisticated, layered and beautiful. It is as deep as the Universe.
I escaped from that class with a “C” and bid it all adieu. The professor was not so lucky. The next semester he self-destructed in front of the class and was taken away. My gut instinct response was cruel: Good riddance! Who needs him?
Later, my intuition told me another story, one that took in more information from the je ne sais quoi of my professor. He likely spent time in Viet Nam. He has obvious problems with anger. His raging ego demands attention constantly. Everything made more sense now. I knew his gut instinct responses were all he could access at the time.
He was protecting himself. He was in survival mode.