Category Archives: imagination

Facets of intelligence

Whenever we think of intelligence we normally tend to confuse it with one’s ability to solve puzzles, mathematical problems, and ability to analyze science problems. To make matters worse we have IQ scores that measure one’s ability to solve a wide variety of test problems. I would like to call this intelligence as “paper intelligence”. This type of intelligence is hardly of any use in real life. One good attempt to classify intelligence was by psychologist Howard Gardner’s in his Theory of multiple intelligences in which he states that there are 9 types of intelligence.

In my view intelligence far from being a problem on paper requires much more involvement. It requires the ability to understand situations, have an insight into multiple contexts, capability to understand nuances, resolve different ideas between people. Intelligence should be accompanied by sound common sense, gumption and dollops of street smarts. In this context I would like to propose the following types of intelligence in people

Personal Intelligence: This is the most basic requirement for a person. This intelligence enables a person to understand what he needs in every point in his life and how to go about achieving it. For e.g. a teenager would understand the importance of learning a professional would realize the need for qualifications or an intelligent sport person would understand the importance of consistent practice. People with this type of intelligence would understand the need to remain healthy and would follow an exercise regimen religiously. Having personal intelligence we would know that we would need to save for our future. We would prudently invest in stocks, funds or CDs to increase our net worth in life.

Professional Intelligence: Have you ever wondered why those with talent sometimes never reach the top of the ladder while others who appear less talented are able to cruise to the top of the management ladder. In my opinion this is because the latter have something I would like to call professional intelligence. For this the person must not only deliver but he/she must make sure that all concerned are aware of his/her contribution. This type of intelligence requires a combination of talent, hard work, ability to influence people and some amount of appropriate self advertisement. Some people are endowed with this type of intelligence. They know what wheels to turn in order to get farther in life.

Interpersonal Intelligence: This is extremely powerful type of intelligence and very few people have it. This intelligence requires that the person be able to weigh each and every individual he/she comes across and be able to turn lever that will make the other person feel important and valued. People endowed with interpersonal intelligence will exert a lot of power. People around them generally love to work for these types of people.

Ethical Intelligence: This intelligence deals with the ability to weigh different possibilities in a conflict and to make appropriate choice, Ethical intelligence involves the ability to weigh a hierarchy of values and choose what is most appropriate under the given circumstances

Social Intelligence: This is to some extent similar to interpersonal intelligence though it is on a much larger scale. Social intelligence indicates a complete understanding of how society at large operates. It requires knowledge of what is important to the people at large. Social intelligence is being able to identify a larger purpose in a situation influence people. These people are leaders and can start a movement if required be.

Conclusion: Intelligence thus has many facets to it. In most cases it requires certain perspicacity, the ability weigh situations, understand the contextual complexity and take decisive actions. Intelligence in real-life has little to do solving paper problems. Intelligence involves being able to adjust oneself according to different contexts and choose the most appropriate course of action.

Thought control

Thought control refers to the control of our thoughts while traveling through the seas of life. As a kid we live in the moment enjoying everything that we come across with true spontaneity. As we grow older we spend an inordinate amount of time either regretting something in the past or worrying about the future and spoil a perfectly lovely present. We do not realize that what is past is over and we should move on. This type of activity is a waste and does not serve any purpose. The key here is to control our thoughts so that we do not waste our mental breath on either things that have happened and cannot be changed or by worrying about events that may happen in the future. Rather we should spend the time in learning from the past or in planning for a brighter future.

Our minds come to each one of us with a fatigue limit. Our minds can handle only so much of worrying, regretting, hoping, anxiety etc. After that we are just exhausted and do not have energy to focus on issues or opportunities in the present. Sometimes certain words or actions of others hurt us and tends to rankle in our minds. What happens after that is we spend our time reliving the situation and keep getting angrier by the moment. It is very essential that we break out of this cyclical thought process and move on in life. As difficult as it is, it definitely makes more sense to step back and look at the whole incident objectively and learn from it. We then have to learn to consciously just “let go”.

The ideal way to progress in life is to conserve our mental energies and focus fully on the task at hand. Our performance and the results will be far greater when we do not fritter away our energies on regrets, worries, and hatred and mind games. This is the true secret of success. We need to be aware of the workings of our mind and manage it intelligently so that our energies are always channelized to opportunities that require our whole hearted attention. We have to conserve our energy and follow the dictum, “When eating eat and when sleeping sleep”. We should neither be too overjoyed at good news nor feel down in the dumps when something bad happens. All these sap our mental forces and there is no energy when it is most needed. This active thought control requires us to put our heart and soul into what we do by conserving our mental energies in order for us to succeed. Finally as physicist Sean Carroll of California Institute of Technology puts it “The past has happened and the future is up for grabs”.

Tinniam V Ganesh

Mechanics of the Mind

In life, we are constantly buffeted by winds of joy and sorrow. We are pushed in different directions by our minds. Both sorrow and happiness are just two extremes. When we are sad our minds are pushed to a negative low. If we give free rein to our minds then we get thoughts that tend to magnify our worries and sorrows. The mind cooks new doomsday scenarios. Joy is just another extreme. We are pushed into a positive high. While joy is welcome too much of it is also quite dangerous. While we can sit back and enjoy the ride when we are happy we should not get too carried away. Otherwise, the world takes on a nice pink hue and we fail to see the world for what it really is. After all joy also is just a state of mind.

What is more appropriate is to maintain a sense of mental equilibrium regardless of whether we feel pain or happiness. There has to be s certain sense of detachment towards our mental states. This way we will not feel let down when our positive high ebbs.

Our minds can be likened to cotton candy machine. In the cotton candy machine we put in sugar and coloring material into sugar bowl into the bottom. The spinning cotton candy machine coupled with the intense heat produces wooly candy. Similarly our hopes, desires, wishes or fears are the ingredients to the mind which is constantly spinning. The mind creates thoughts from our innermost feelings and wishes. If we tend to be afraid thee mind will automatically generate fearful thoughts and create situations which will produce more anxiety. Similarly when are tend to gloat over our successes the mind throws thoughts which try to substantiate the feelings of pride. We soon tend to go overboard with thoughts of our own self-importance.

However our minds are truly remarkable instruments and can serve us immensely if we understand the mechanics of the mind. When we are faced with a tough problem in life we can throw this problem into the cotton candy maker of the mind. After we spend an adequate amount of time wrestling with the problem we can just park the problem in our candy maker. Given some time the mind will continue to spin and work the problem out on its own. Similarly if we are interested in any creative activity like writing, playing an instrument or painting the mind is truly capable of real creativity. We however have to teach our brains by practicing the skill we are interested in. Buried deep in the recesses of our brain are our neatly organized ideas, rules coupled with innumerable associations and correlations of what is good and what is beautiful. The spinning mind can constantly throw up new and interesting combinations.

If we put in the right ingredients and ideas into our candy maker and let our mind do what it does best we will have truly discovered the fount of creativity.

Thought in Action

What is the structure of thought? Are thoughts made up of words? Superficially it may appear that all thinking is verbal. But on a closer reflection we realize that we really only verbalize when we are not able to focus on something well. We try to go slowly over the situation or event in words. Moreover if we analyze a little deeper we realize that we really don’t think in words.

For e.g. the word ‘spring’ can bring to our minds different thoughts depending on the context in which it is uttered. For e.g. when it the word spring is used while discussing the weather we immediately imagine the season spring. When we say that a person has a ‘spring’ in his step, we can easily visualize the person who is light footed and agile. Similarly the word spring can also being images of a coiled spring. So we don’t really think in terms of words.  The next question is “do we think in terms of images or pictures?” Again there are times when we think in terms of images. But this is not a static image. Thinking when accompanied by images is usually dynamic and changing.

According to earlier psychological thought it was felt that the right hemisphere of the brain was creative, intuitive and artistic while the left hemisphere was analytical, rational and logical. Nowadays the thinking about how the brain processes information has undergone a sea-change. The prevalent notion these days is that the left hemisphere sees the world in sequential and ordered series of steps. On the contrary the right hemisphere is able to analyze a problem or a situation in parallel. The right hemisphere is able to view the situation holistically and intuitively.

In my opinion, our mind “works all at once”. When we are really in deep thought trying to solve a tricky problem or trying to analyze a difficult situation, our thoughts comprehend the conundrum “all at once”. Our brains attack the problem in many ways. It could attack the problem from the “outside-in” or “inside-out”. It could again be attempting to solve with a “top-down” approach or a “bottom-up” approach.

We really don’t know what is thought. The closest we can get to the thought process is to understand in terms of an executing computer program which operates on a set of data. While current programs execute sequentially the mind works in a combination of sequential and a holistic way. There are no known such real world implementations that mimic the thought activity of the brain.  Recently IBM has come up with a cognitive computer which tries to mimic the interactions between clusters of neurons. This is very primitive and probably is the first attempt to mimic the brain. We are still miles away from understanding the structure of thought.

Till that time we can only think on “how we think”.

Illusions of the mind

The human mind is truly the culmination of our evolutionary processes. With the mind we can invent, create, reason and do many things when we are in control. However if the mind takes possession of us then we can be led to wayward ways. The mind can be boon or a bane depending on how we use it.

One of the many things that we have to be extremely careful are the illusions of the mind where we can be led astray and made to believe things that are not necessarily true. Many times we develop a certain negative bias towards somebody or something. What happens after that is that we tend to be overly critical of them or it. We just fail to see their positive points and only focus on their negativity.

There are other times when we just get led by designations or honorific titles and start imagining greatness where there is none. We start associating great learning or divinity to people simply because we cloud our mind and reason. The faculty of reason and understanding can be easily covered by our imagination. We then will fail to see things in their proper light. Our mind will start exaggerating our ideas and opinions more than what is real. We will be unable to differentiate between the real and the unreal.

The mind is a wonderful instrument if we use it properly. However if we start to assume things without associated  reasoning  then, the mind, can turn into an enemy putting into our heads wrong notions. This happens as a result of lazy thinking when we assume things or jump to conclusions without any proper basis. We are all guilty of lazy thinking, at some times of our life, simply because it is less work. This is something we should particularly careful about.

The mind is a beacon of real understanding as long as we use it wisely and are free from biases and opinions. When we start being judgmental or begin to begin to imagine power and greatness in mere designations and honorific titles the mind because covered in the darkness of unreason. We then lose the ability to seeing things in the real light.

Hence it is imperative that in all our interactions in daily life we always look at things with a balanced perspective, neither being too critical nor jumping to conclusions too early.

Phantoms of the Mind

Our mind is truly God’s masterpiece. The mind with its ability to think and to be aware of itself is really the ultimate creation. With our minds we can think, analyze, perceive, create and invent. We can do so many amazing things with this wonderful instrument of ours. The mind serves us well if we know how to use it wisely. But it can also be the greatest curse if we let our thoughts wander or lose control of ourselves.

If we aren’t careful our mind can truly run riot. We can start imagining things that are not true. We can start believing in our own glory. We start to think that we are extremely clever, have uncanny insight or are gifted in some unique way over others. We start to become very proud and arrogant.

Then, there are others who will be overly critical of themselves. They will criticize themselves relentlessly and will consider themselves as losers. These people have a defeatist attitude and completely lack in confidence.

All these are mere illusions. These are the phantoms of the mind that we have to be aware of. The unfortunate thing with our mind is that our thoughts can make things appear so bright or paint so gloomy a picture that we are completely overwhelmed by it that all rational thinking escapes us. This is an extremely dangerous position where we lose sight of logic and are fooled by the illusion that the mind creates.

It is extremely important that in life regardless of achievements of failures, we have a balanced outlook of ourselves. We should be completely grounded in reality at all times.

The Atman or Soul is closer to the heart

The Atman or Soul is closer to our heart than our head

Our mind is a wonderful instrument. With it we can analyze, invent, solve and do a lot of things. But the mind is only capable of intellectualizing. The head is capable of performing a lot of useful functions. We can think, solve, create and analyze with our heads. With our heads we process thoughts. In other words our minds are nothing more than thought processing mechanisms. It will not be an exaggeration to say that in some day in the future man will be able to mimic the thought processing capability of the mind.

On the other hand, the heart is the seat of far more subtler emotions like love, compassion, tolerance etc. These are unique and can never be imitated by machines. It is the seat of nobler emotions than the mind. The heart is generally considered as the seat of these emotions. However the heart is just another organ. Can it be the place where these emotions generate?

In my opinion emotions like love, kindness or tolerance emanate somewhere from the chest. The psycho-physiological activities behind these emotions must be far more complex but it is centered in the middle of the chest where the heart lies. Our conscience is also generally assumed to be centered on our heart.

Devotion, faith or bhakti also can also only emanate from this heart region. Faith or bhakti cannot come from the mind through reading of scriptures or philosophy. We cannot intellectualize the concept of the Supreme.

A good life is full of love, compassion, kindness and devotion to a Supreme Being. Hence it is clear that the seat of human goodness in general comes from the heart.

Also central to several faiths of this world is the concept of a Personal Soul or the Atman. Since the Atman or the Soul can only be centered on human goodness it becomes obvious that the Soul and the Atman are closer to the heart than to the head.