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An article donated by
Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys:

Aha Moments!

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What does 1 + 1 equal?:

I got into a “discussion” with a philosophy professor who took exception to a statement I made -- that sometimes, One plus One does NOT always equal Two.

He kept trying to make a logical argument and never seemed to be able to move beyond that mode of thinking. I tried to give him several examples and another man jumped into the discussion and gave an example from Physics.

Here are three of the illustrations I used to make my point clear. Or at least, that I used to try to make my point clear, but I don’t think I succeeded. I don’t think he ever “got it”. Do you?

  • When I bake a loaf of bread I take four ingredients, flour, sugar, warm water and yeast, mix them all together, let the dough rise and bake it in an oven. The flour, sugar, water and yeast completely lose their individual identities and the loaf of bread has properties that none of those individual ingredients possessed. The resulting product is far more than a simple sum of its parts!

  • In physics, one up quark, joins with another up quark and a down quark and you no longer have 3 quarks. You have a whole new atomic nucleus with properties that are far different from anything each of those quarks possessed. The resulting product is far more than a simple sum of its parts!

  • IF I take four altos, four sopranos, four bases and four tenors and put them all together I have one choir NOT twelve soloists! The resulting product is far more than a simple sum of its parts! Together the singers are able to produce a sound that none of them could produce on their own.

The lesson to draw from this can be found in an essay I wrote quite a while back “The Power of WE”. This states that alone we aren’t much but when we set aside our differences and join forces we can accomplish great things. The resulting product is far more than a simple sum of its parts!

One plus one doesn’t always equal two!

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Part Two: Subjective Opinions:

This all started with a discussion about how we come to “know” things. I made the comment that everything we know is colored or shaped by our own perceptions. Everything we know is really just our own subjective opinion.

We are taught by our parents and teachers and preachers, We learn from the books and TV shows and movies and videos and now social media websites that we watch. We learn from everyone we meet -- friends, family, neighbors. We learn from what we personally experience and by watching what other people experience. All of this colors our perception of the world and our place in it. We put all of this information together and come to some sort of an understanding: our subjective opinion about what is what, and what isn’t but should be.

Even the Biblical Literalist who insists they are following Gods word in his book is making a subjective statement or judgment, they just refuse to admit it. For example there are many translations of the Bible, choosing one to follow is making a subjective decision. Then deciding how those passages will be read -- literally, metaphorically, or as mythical story -- also requires making a subjective decision. Deciding which passages are most important and which passages can be ignored requires the making of a subjective decision. Even choosing to read the Bible and not the Upanishads or the Quran, or the Tao teh Ching requires making a subjective decision. As I said, people insist that they aren’t, that they are following God’s word in their attempt to justify and sanctify what is simply their own subjective opinion.

Choosing to watch and listen to Fox News instead of CBS or PBS will color your perception and infect the subjective opinions that you make. If you get your news only from your social media feed -- Facebook, Twitter, and/or YouTube -- your understanding of the world will be shaped by what you see and by what you don’t see.

It is important to stress here that all subjective opinions are NOT created equal, some are better grounded than others as shown by the depth or shallowness of the reasoning involved.

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Part Three: Tools we use to come to knowledge about things:

There have been times when many religious people, gurus, some philosophers, wise men and women from many different cultures have understood that basic logic, linear reasoning, rational analysis, black and white thinking, literal reading of a passage or book, or Arithmetical computations simply don’t work. Attempting to apply one of these forms of analysis or understanding to a problem or question leads a person astray. They are simply are unable to “get it”! They never have that "Aha or Enlightened moment", or "Spiritual transformation!"

Logical reasoning in its simplest form is: If A equals B, and B equals C, then A equals C. Philosophers and Theologians make much more complicated logical arguments than this and it is often difficult to sort through the chaff or peer past the smoke screen to see the full form of their reasoning. I have pointed out problems with logical arguments in other essays I have written. Basically the argument stands of fails on its initial assumption or assumptions. All arguments have to start somewhere. If you can figure out what the initial assumption/s is/are you can show the flaws in the argument.

I think some religious scholars/theologians get themselves into trouble by attempting to make a rational or logical argument in an attempt to prove God exists. I have written a couple of essays in the past that show the errors of their arguments. They’d be better off, in my opinion just admitting that a belief in God is irrational and illogical. But then that creates other problems for them!

If you try to apply logic to the statement that One plus One doesn’t always equal Two you have totally missed the point!

Linear reasoning is when you try to insist that A leads to B which leads to C. This type of reasoning can fail at many points along the path. First is with the first assumption A that may have left many things out. And then you can also have the same problem with point B that it also leaves many things out. If points A and B had included all the variables, you probably or possibly would have ended up in a very different place than point C.

A good example here is with Doctors trying to unravel the causes and cures of a disease. We saw this recently with the problems with Vaping and the sudden deaths of seven (at last count) young people and the serious lung problems with several hundred more. So far they haven’t found the “smoking gun:” one single cause of all the problems. Some of the young people vaped the active ingredient in marijuana. Some didn’t. They used many different vaping products; they weren’t all from one manufacturer. Simple linear reasoning doesn’t work in most instances because there are too many variables to consider.

Rational analysis also has its problems because what seems rational to one person may be irrational to another person! Who gets to decide what is or is not rational? An example: Is the Atheist rational when they believe that a belief in God is irrational. The devout religious person disagrees! Another example is the action some people take to risk their own lives to save a stranger's life. To the person that did this it was the only rational thing they could do. To stand by and watch another person die, when they might have been able to help would be unthinkable/irrational.

Black-White thinking is the belief that something is 100% TRUE or it is 100% a Lie, or that one idea is the ONLY right idea, all others ideas are WRONG. When you are reading a work of fiction, or reading a mythological story, Truth and Lies simply don’t apply because these types of writings were never meant to be understood as historical or scientific fact. The message that they carry either resonates with a person or it doesn’t. Black-White thinking is also done without gathering all the relevant facts. Thus the person arrives at the wrong answer to a question. This is what I mean when I mentioned the reality that all subjective opinions are not equal. Some show a depth to their reasoning, the person took the time to investigate, ask questions, seek out information from a variety of sources before forming an opinion. Shallow, and Black-White thinkers don’t do this.

How we choose to read something is also an important tool we use to come to an understanding of our world and our place in it. Some people simply aren’t critical thinkers. They have never learned how to take a critical look at an issue. They may have been taught, as some religious folk have been taught, not to ask questions, just believe they are told. Critical thinking isn’t the same as criticizing though it may lead to criticizing something.

If you are a Black-White thinker you are not a critical thinker because you fail to see or refuse to see the many shades of grey, or great varieties of color, or great complexities in a situation or issue. You look at things from one point of view. You can never or rarely place yourself in another person’s shoes to look at an issue from their perspective.

Biblical literalists are also not critical thinkers. They miss the wonderful beauty of poetry and the depth of meaning in the myth and/or metaphor. It takes imagination and curiosity to “read between the lines”, or “see past the surface to discover what lies beneath”! Or to see the possibilities that are unexpressed.

The person who isn’t bound or stuck in a rut with logical analysis, linear reasoning, rational thinking, black-white thinking, or literal reading, can -- as Robert Kennedy so elegantly put it -- (I paraphrase here) “see things that never were, and ask why not?” And then say, why don’t we try this…….?

The logical analyzer, the linear reasoned rational thinker, the Black - White thinker and literal reader will offer all kinds of reasons (read excuses) why it can’t be done rather than attempt to think up ways to make something happen.

Arithmetical reasoning is insisting that one plus one equals two. Or four minus two equals two! As I pointed out to the Philosophy Professor, sometimes it doesn’t. No logical, linear, rational, black - white or literal thinking can prove me wrong!

Here is another way to look at this statement. A common saying that has come from many Gurus and also, allegedly, from Jesus is that “less is more”!

"Nonsense." the capitalist, economist, corporate tycoon and prosperity Gospel preachers cry. Less is less and more is more and they can prove it with simple arithmetic—one plus one equals two and two is greater than one, and having more is a very good thing!

Jesus is reported to have told his followers to give away all their possessions and follow him. Why did he say that? I can imagine he realized that the rewards though not in monetary terms would be far greater than they could imagine.

The business man that realizes that if he takes a little less salary or a bit less of the profits so he can pay his employees more gets more from the increased happiness of his employees which leads to greater productivity, fewer shut downs and fewer product defects. Better products lead to more customer satisfaction which leads to greater sales, which lead to higher stock prices and profits.

The person, who donates their time to help at a food bank or homeless shelter or do some other volunteer job, understands this principle. They willingly give up something (spend less time on themselves) to help others. The rewards, in non monetary or arithmetical terms, in defiance of logic or rationality, linear reasoning, black and white thinking, or literal command from some sacred text to save endangered sea turtles or spotted owls or to pick up trash on a beach, are so great.

This realization that “less is more” is that “aha or enlightened moment” and/or spiritual transformation.

One plus one doesn’t always equal two.

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Author: Contributing Editor Susan Humphyreys
Originally posted on: 2019-OCT-22

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