In Blink, author Malcolm Gladwell suggests that we know certain things independent of a traditional application of rational analysis to a set of sensory perceptions. Gladwell makes a convincing case that not only do human beings appear to have some incredible facility to analyze a situation unconsciously – something he refers to as “thin slicing” and “rapid cognition” – but that the resulting conclusions are very trustworthy. (excerpt from The Race Before Us).
I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell. I’ve read or listened to all of his books. Because he is a social scientist, I often comment that I’m not sure I agree with every conclusion he draws, but you cannot ignore his observations. His writing is also fun as he points out (and tries to explain) some fascinating (even if at times very unimportant) things: like, why do we have numerous varieties of mustard, but essentially only one version of catsup?
In my journey, Gladwell’s observations helped me to “see” that we make conclusions about life and reality without always using a strict scientific or materialistic approach – that even a rigid application of reason had its limitations. As I write in The Race Before Us – “one thing that I knew – really knew – was that I had a deep love for my wife and children and that this conclusion was not the byproduct of formal argumentation or the scientific method.” (Happy Birthday Cheryl). And so it is with belief in God – the conclusion is highly rational, but not completely so. There is not a “leap” despite the evidence, but there is a commitment of trust that defies logical syllogisms. So, not surprisingly, I was encouraged to read yesterday that Malcolm Gladwell had rediscovered his faith while writing his newest book, David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Here is one question and answer from that article/interview:
Q: David and Goliath is quite famous, yes. What about Jesus? Where might he fit in your narrative?
A: He does fit. Here is one of the most revolutionary figures in history. He comes from the humblest of beginnings. He never held elected office. He never had an army at his disposal. He never got rich; he had nothing that we would associate with power and advantage. Nonetheless, what does he accomplish? An unfathomable amount. He is almost the perfect illustration of this idea that you have to look in the heart to know what someone’s capable of.
Obviously, I’m eager to read the story of David and Goliath from Gladwell’s perspective. A final note – recalling my consideration of Gladwell’s observations during my journey (and recalling the limits of pure reason or of the scientific method in reaching certain conclusions we know to be true), I am reminded of a famous quote that seems to fit here.
“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” (Blaise Pascal)
And, who knew he was a runner? [But I guess we should have “known” that from reading his books and understanding his character.]