I loved debating as a kid and believed that logic and argumentation can solve all the problems in the world. Religion, love, morals, science…I considered nothing sacred. My father was one of my sparring partners and I loved pissing him off with my solid GK and watertight arguments.
Sometimes when cornered by my arguments, my father would say exasperated: ” Remember that you are talking to a 50 year old man. I have seen some things you can’t even begin to imagine. Don’t act like a know-it-all. You haven’t seen shit!”.
I laughed him away. “Age and experience, who needs them?”, I’d say, “Logic reigns supreme over everything else”.
I had a lot of confidence in logic, but since, I have repeatedly run into situations where logic fell short of delivering the right solution. Came as quite a shock to me.
In time, I accepted the fact that logic doesn’t reign supreme, and maybe, just maybe, my dad has a point.
There are two kinds of problems : impersonal and personal. While logic can handle the first kind fine, it needs the help of age and experience to solve the second.
Let me give an example: When a friend comes to me with a moral dilemma, I can use consequential logic. I’d be right most of the time too. But when I am struggling with a moral dilemma myself, suddenly all logic flies out of the window. My subconscious and my hormones won’t let me think straight. This is not just true for moral dilemmas, but for any problem where we have a vested interest in the outcome.
We typically use two independent components to solve such problems. One component is the rational self which uses logic. The second component is our hormones and our subconscious. Science has, so far, been very unsuccessful at figuring out how this second component works. This is where ‘age and experience’ comes in.
When we start out as an adult, our second component is on autopilot. The rational part is under control and helpful (assuming you are smart) but the other component is acting on its own. We don’t know how it works and it does not feel obliged to tell us. Very often, it leads to unwanted if not disastrous outcomes. Our rational part observes quietly. It observes for a few times and starts detecting patterns. Once it starts detecting patterns (these patterns are what you call experience) the rational part can now start to control the second component to a degree. The more it observes, the more it learns, the clearer the patterns and the stronger the control.
This is the real power of experience.
Experience knows things about you that science or logic doesn’t. You can use this knowledge to gain control over situations. Next time the shit gets real, consider analyzing your experiences in similar situations in the past to find out what this says about yourself. When you have a firm grasp of your ‘crazy’ side and your ‘logical’ side, that is when you will emerge victorious from personal problems.