The Art of Staying Rational in an Irrational World

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According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “rational” is defined as “having reason or understanding”. A secondary definition is “relating to, based on, or agreeable to reason”.

In a word, “reasonable”.

Of course, one of the antonyms of the word “rational” is “irrational”, which the same dictionary more broadly defines as “lacking usual or normal clarity or coherence; not governed by or according to reason; not endowed with reason or understanding”.

In a word, “unreasonable”.

Do you consider yourself reasonable or unreasonable?

I am fairly certain that just about anyone you pose this question to would respond by indicating that they are reasonable. Only a fool would admit to being unreasonable, even if their actions or words indicate their unreasonableness.

Ergo, it is up to us as individuals to exercise logic (another word for reasoning) and determine for ourselves what is reasonable or unreasonable.

Like many things in life, this is easier said than done….

As a society, we are often encouraged, through media, to view irrational perspectives as being rational.

For example, every election season, there is not-so-subtle rhetoric that your vote does not count, yet simultaneously there are politicos who actively work to restrict the number of people who are eligible to vote. Extreme cognitive dissonance as a society, no?

We hold elections in the middle of the work week, usually a Tuesday, when all but the elderly and the more affluent will have a hard time finding the time to vote.

It is no wonder why only half of eligible voters in this country cast a ballot during a presidential election year and only about 30% to 40% of eligible voters turnout in midterm election years.

How rational is that?

It seems more reasonable to find the time to go and vote, does it not?

Additionally, there are plenty of people who think voting is a waste of time because the candidates are not worth voting for, yet many of these same people could not tell you who their congressman or senators are, much less the mayor of their own town or their state delegate who makes decisions about their lives everyday whilst they remain blissfully (or not so blissfully) ignorant. More of that societal cognitive dissonance, no?

How rational is that?

I used the simple act of voting as an example here, but the irrational aspects of how we act as a society certainly do not end there.

So how does one stay rational in an irrational world?

I have five very simple tenets that I subscribe to and they go as follows…

1. Exercise your mind as much or more than you exercise your body.

Hall of Fame head football coach Jimmy Johnson once said “let the mind control the body, not the body control the mind”. Far too many people let their body control their minds.

Your greatest source of wealth is your mental (includes intellectual), physical, and spiritual health. Those three things must be cultivated everyday. A weak body is often the result of a weak mind. Sure, age and disease can ravage the body, but if you also have a strong mind, you can still achieve and maintain greatness. Stephen Hawking is a sterling example of how a strong mind overcomes a weak body. The opposite, a strong body overcoming a weak mind, never holds true. It is why the strongest creatures to ever roam the earth, the dinosaurs, did not survive and the most physically strong creatures on the planet today do not dominate it.

2. Take all political ideologies with a grain of salt.

I care not what your political ideology is. All of them are based upon wishful thinking and crumble in the face of reality.

Political ideologies are very much like religious ideologies in that they rally both the faithful and the gullible. Whether one who follows a political ideology is being faithful or gullible is up for debate.

3. Try to read and/or write everyday.

For those still wondering why still we teach English in primary, secondary, and post-secondary education in our English-speaking nation, it is because far too many people have yet to learn to master the English language. Mastery of your own language is a key determinant of success.

Reading and/or writing everyday helps you to master your own language.

4. Think for yourself.

This tenet goes along with the three previous tenets. If you exercise your mind and body, refuse to take ideologies too seriously (by making them a fundamental part of who you are), and learn to master your own language, then you will naturally find yourself thinking for yourself.

Additionally, advertising and political messages are designed to stimulate emotions, not promote critical thinking.

As Mark Twain eloquently opined, “whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect”.

Never confuse being in the majority with being rational or correct. As Earl Nightingale once said, “the opposite of courage is not cowardice, but conformity”. Conforming to the majority is not necessarily a good thing.

5. Be nice.

To quote late thespian Patrick Swayze from the movie Road House;

If somebody gets in your face and calls you a cocksucker, I want you to be nice.

Ask him to walk, be nice.

If he won’t walk, walk him. But be nice.

If you can’t walk him, one of the others will help you. And you’ll both be nice.

I want you to remember that it’s a job. It’s nothing personal.

That quote perfectly encapsulates why being nice is a virtue worth practicing at all times.

Reacting to disrespect with anger never gets you anywhere. It makes you look as irrational as the person or persons being disrespectful towards you.

I hope this post helps someone see the difference between being rational vs being irrational and choose to be rational.

-The Rational Ram

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