“I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” ~ Socrates
There is a story about the couple who celebrated their fiftieth anniversary and showed every sign of having experienced a happy and fulfilled life together. When the man was asked for the secret of their success, he revealed a principle that they had agreed to, very early on, and abided unfailingly by: That his wife would make all the small decisions in life, and that he would make the big ones. He added, “Oh, and so far, in all these years, we have never made a big decision!”
The story may be an apocryphal one, but it suggests that decisions can be made without you making them yourself, and that the results can be surprisingly pleasant. Especially when you have a partner that you are willing to put your implicit trust in.
Are you the senior partner?
There is u. And there is the universe. One is a small thing, a mere speck in the vastness; the other is extraordinary in size, scope, complexity and impact. The coincidence of language makes the ‘u’ the first letter in the word, ‘universe’, allowing us to use that to suggest that u are really just a small part of the whole, and also that u are the first thing in the universe that you are aware of.
So can the universe be the senior, wiser partner in your marriage? Can you place your trust in this giant, swirling mass, and let it make all the “small” decisions, so that you can devote your unbounded intelligence to the really big ones?
The point is that a lot of things happen whether you are an active decision maker in them, or not. The universe, and the part of you that is one with the universe, may be making many many decisions that, for the most part, you play hardly any role in. Your heart decides when to beat faster and when to slow down, your skin breaks out into a sweat when the sun decides that it must beat down on you. These things are obvious.
Are these things really “small” decisions? Your intuition should tell you that if your innate u and the universe didn’t make the decisions they do, life would come to a standstill. So maybe it is wise to trust the senior partner in your marriage to life a bit more?
How big really is your u in the universe?
There is more to it though. Besides the fact that the decisions that are made for you are significant ones is the realization, when it comes, that some of these can come at any time, as earthquakes do, and reshape your landscape overnight. But the u as a child of the universe is up to that too: it adapts with remarkable predictability, even if it doesn’t always feel as easy as you would like it to be. But that difficulty may be more because of the you that you have come to create and trust more than the universe. Maybe it is wise to trust not only that the universe makes some pretty heavy-lift decisions that keep you alive but also that when it seems to do things that go against your grain, that there is something inside you that can adapt and play well with these things.
Of course, if you are full of the you that you have created and have learned to trust that disproportionately, then you might need to leave a lot of money on the table.
Trust but verify?
If you say that you trust the miracle that is the universe, but that your conscious mind serves as the mechanism to verify what the universe presents to you, there is one big thing to consider: uncertainty. Since we clearly can’t see everything, especially the future in its entirety, we are often inclined to supplement what is known with hypotheses about what is not known. “Information!” we assert, “is the way to make decisions!” Alas, in the most important things in life, we rarely have full information. We are often left on the edge of a 50-50 knife, and as any intelligent bettor knows, “50-50” is the dreaded curse that keeps you teetering on that knife’s edge.
So, when you know that you don’t have the necessary information, what do you do? Jump off the knife’s edge! No verify. Just trust the universe, and the u in it: your gut. Make the intelligent decision to leave the intelligence to a vastly greater intelligence. And trust that both the universe and the u will do more for you and protect you as time unfolds, however it unfolds. You want to be intelligent – not “intelligent”.
Balaji Prasad is an IIT/IIM graduate, published author, SAT/ACT online and in-person Coach, and K-12 Math Tutor at NewCranium. Contact: [email protected].