It was 1978 and the class was Ethnographic Film. There I was, blue-book in hand, standing in my professor’s office. He didn’t look pleased to see me. He was the type of guy who could push you away with just a look.
“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 said 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 their gut instincts to make decisions that deserve careful consideration that actually require words. Instinct works well in man-versus-bear altercations or speed dating, but I wanted more than a gut response to my exam. I wanted actual thought.
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.
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. They are living in fantasy land!
But how long can we use our instinct before it becomes nothing more than a cerebral cop-out, an unintended continual homage to our Paleolithic past? At what point does basic gut instinct morph into its classier sibling – intuition?
In the last few hundred years, human intuition has been shut away in a tower by science and our logical left 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.
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, alternate universes. The stuff you can’t see and not many understand. This is not the obvious left-brained world, 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 adieu. The professor was not so lucky. The next semester he self-destructed in front of the class with a wild, angry tantrum and was sent away. My gut instinct response was cruel: Good riddance! Who needs him?
Later, my intuition told me another story, one I felt explained a lot of men I met that decade. He spent time in Viet-Nam.
Everything made more sense now. I knew his gut instinct reactions were all he could access at the time. He was protecting himself. He was in survival mode.