Thursday, 20 October 2016

The great advantages of rationality and long-term thinking

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If you ever thought that the benefits of acting rationally in life are self-evident, you are wrong. In fact, nothing can be further from daily experience. Irrationality and short-term thinking are preached constantly by the media and, to a great extent, by the ethical ideas that dominate our society.

The charm of foolishness

There are many drawbacks to being rational, as there are many negative consequences of being good. Contrary to what you might believe, people who behave foolishly or wickedly are not stupid. They may be uninformed or short-sighted, evil or self-destructive, but not stupid.

There are great personal advantages to be drawn from behaving appallingly. Nobody told us at school and, around us, most will deny it, but I believe that it is better to face the truth. Consuming refined sugar and saturated fat might lead to health problems in the long run, but it can be a great treat right now.

Short-term advantages of irrationality

If you are enlightened enough to think otherwise, this will bring about positive results for you and for the world. My point is that you should not assume that others will automatically recognize your good choices as valid. Rational thinking must involve the realization that most people will not understand it. What are the reasons behind this phenomenon?

* IMMEDIATE PLEASURE. Short-term thinking often entails immediate pleasure or enjoyment of some kind. Children prefer chocolate chips to vegetables because they taste better. In terms of eating pleasure, you cannot argue otherwise. Without developed mental skills, childish and primitive behaviour is all you get.

* NO EFFORTS REQUIRED. Many negative consequences of irrational actions are difficult to figure out. Human beings took hundreds of years to understand basic facts about nutrition and how it affects biochemical processes. In our days, discussions are still ongoing about why we have strong cravings for low-quality food. Good nutrition is all but self-evident.

* IT LOOKS INEXPENSIVE. The crucial contribution of economics to human thinking is that, when it comes to complex problems, no conclusion should be drawn without studying the complete picture. The acquisition price of an item can be judged cheap or expensive only if we consider its lifetime benefits. In the short run, you can save effort if you don´t brush your teeth. This is the sort of cheap omission that may bring you considerable long-term harm.

Even nowadays, when internet access has become commonplace for educated individuals, irrational thinking remains widespread in our world. It is undeniable that, on many occasions, foolish choices are encouraged by our social environment, but for a wise man, this should be no excuse.

Why should you be rational?


Rational living brings about enormous benefits to society, but we cannot expect that, for every decision, individuals consider all possible consequences for third parties around the world. The great news is that advantages to society are automatic.

Luckily, the main beneficiary of rational thinking is the individual who makes correct decisions, frequently in opposition to his immediate social environment. Acquiring wisdom takes substantial effort and difficult short-term choices, but constitutes the only solid foundation of personal happiness.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by twoblueday under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]
For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books

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Monday, 10 October 2016

Extraordinary determination leads to extraordinary results

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The work of the British writer Enid Blyton (1897-1968) is one of the great literary achievements of the 20th century. She wrote mainly for children and produced an average of 2 books per month during four decades.

Her writings have been translated all around the world. Irrespective of your cultural background, chances are that you have read one of her Famous Five stories, which recount the adventures of 4 children and a dog.
 

Massive output

Despite the fact that some literary commentators show little appreciation for Blyton's work, her overwhelming popularity leaves little room for debate. Her readers, children in dozens of countries, adore her books. In our days, sales of her work continue to reach enormous figures, even though her stories play in a world without mobile phones and internet.

Most of Blyton's tales are set in an environment of rigid social classes and traditions, where people have pudding for lunch and tea in the afternoon. Her own life was relatively quiet, far from the ways and fashions of modern media celebrities.

The only unusual event, considering the times, is that she divorced her first husband whom she had married when she was 27 years old. At 46, she entered a second marriage that turned out to be very happy. She continued her massive literary output during the next decades, played tennis and golf regularly, and died at 71, shortly after her second husband.


Adamant determination

What is remarkable of Enid Blyton's life is, of course, her adamant determination to produce volume after volume at a very high speed. All her books were written at a time when word processors did not yet exist. The average novel for adults has about 90.000 words; in comparison, children novels tend to be short, less than 40.000 words. Nonetheless, Blyton's ability to produce hundreds of finished manuscripts during her lifetime is truly extraordinary.

While tradition and routine filled a good part of Enid Blyton's life, her children books embody the virtues of independence and entrepreneurship to an extent that few writers have equalled. In her stories, kids explore the world on their own and girls face danger with incredible courage.


Blyton's under-age heroes make plans to achieve their goals, learn to deal effectively with adverse circumstances, overcome difficulties, and finally triumph. Even if some of her plots are slow, most of her main characters show relentless determination.

Young readers around the world may feel little admiration for the traditional English society that she depicts, but this aspect is immaterial to the success of her books. Blyton's skill consists of placing wonderful protagonists in constrained settings. She is a master at portraying boys' and girls' entrepreneurship against colourless backgrounds.

Independent thinking


In her stories, Blyton uses culture, not as a summation of uncontested expectations, but as the ultimate literary ploy. Tradition is the giant to be fooled, the ancient clock that ticks aimlessly forward, the spider web that fills an uninhabited cave.

Meaningless routines do not make a world that children want to inhabit, nor any discerning adult for that matter. Enid Blyton's message to every young reader is that he should not base his decisions on questionable traditions; that he should think for himself and check things twice; that he should do what is right, which is not necessarily what people expect him to do.

Is it then a surprise that her books continue to delight millions of boys and girls around the world? As soon as a kid reads a volume of the Famous Five, he is hooked and won't stop until he gets hold of the complete series. Blyton's work originates the same fascination in young girls, who constitute 50% of the protagonists of her novels.


Inspiration and courage

The conclusion is unmistakable: readers, especially children, love stories whose main characters show purpose and resourcefulness, independence and entrepreneurship. Let me also underline that Enid Blyton's books are remarkably non-violent. Physical aggression rarely plays a role in her stories, which focus more on the development of courage and self-reliance.

Will you follow the same principles the next time that you have to make an important decision? Let yourself be inspired by Blyton's stories and learn from her characters how to face life courageously. This is what draws children to her books, teenagers to video games, and adults to philosophy.


In fiction, we seek inspiration; in ethical ideals, validation. Blyton's stories awake moral reasoning in children, who understand the meaning without realizing the abstraction. As children turn into adults, independent thinking and entrepreneurship are qualities to be cultivated further.

Blyton's tales have happy ends, where virtue triumphs over nastiness and deceit. Her characters, in particular the Famous Five, have helped millions of boys and girls around the world internalize ethical values. Children stories, however, are insufficient to provide guidance to run our lives effectively. That task belongs to philosophy, from which the best is still to come.


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by geodesic under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]


For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books
 

Free subscription to
The John Vespasian Letter