The Irrationality of Everyday Life

Ours is an age of information, one of knowledge and recognition of mind over muscle. It took us humans a considerable amount of time to recognize our true potential and decide upon what is the most vital organ of our body. It doesn’t pay anymore to be phenomenally strong unless you have a mind with reasonable ability. It seems odd then that irrationality still enjoys such a comfortable place in a society which prides itself on its acumen. Of course one man’s irrational behavior is another’s way of life, and the concept in itself is a relative one but there are cases where the lack of reason is so painfully obvious that you can’t help but flinch.

In order to properly define things without reason, the idea of reason needs to be agreed upon. What we commonly believe to comprise of common sense is actual a communal idea of reasonableness. It is reasonable to assume that the average human being shall not  use a wet fork to retrieve from a live toaster his breakfast. As economies draw a poverty line there is also an intellect or common sense line where if you are below it you are considered to be irrational/dumb. But unlike the idea of wealth, your relative position to the line can be fluctuating given circumstances, experiences, exposure and state of mind. Even wealth may fluctuate but hardly with the same frequency.

As it is mass thinking or the limits of, that determine the ideas of state, life, employment, domestic existence and so on, the further you are from the bell curve (on either side) the more prominent the gap between societal and personal rationality becomes.

The price for living in a civilized world is paid daily by the sacrifice of ones own idea of what is wrong and right to align with a society which can punish you for listening to your own cerebral compass. Anomalies always scare the ignorant while intriguing the curious and observant. It is when the former become anomalies themselves that the latter, who are always in a majority take offense. Just off the top of an ever perturbed head I can come up with some classic examples of irrationality as observed in the life you and I lead.

LIFE AS AN Infant

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  • This is not so much irrationality you take part in, but one that you are subjected to. In India mortality rates, especially infant mortality rates have always been historically high. Diseases, the environment and in some cases starvation led to only a few children growing to a full ripe age. This may not be the case now but was certainly for the past few centuries. As ignorance and a lack of education were rampant the idea that strangers or jealous people can put the Evil Eye on children was wide spread. A black dot on a cheek or forehead was the prescribed cure and so it continues, even in households where most members are aware of things like protons and the Pythagorean theorem. I quote this not to claim that these are intelligent households but those which meet the societal expectation of education.
  • The second point would be baby talk. We enter the domain of goo – goos and gaa – gaas uttered not by the age appropriate individual but his/her conceiver. The apparent cuteness of a human child when confronts a grown adult what results is a set of adoring adjectives pronounced in manner requiring serious tongue acrobatics. The purpose of this remains unknown as it stands to reason that the toddler can only possibly discern affection, not the words.

Life at School

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  • Educational in itself is perhaps the realm of greatest irrationality perpetrated on humankind by its elected scholars. Most of our primary education models come from those laid down by Christian Missionaries across the world, during the age of Imperialism. An understanding of the sum of human knowledge in less than a decade can itself be a daunting task but when coupled with the emphasis on memory rather than intellectual engagement, we walk up to and shake hands with, Irrationality. You talk to any student and you shall find him/her complaining about the absolute pointlessness of whatever is being fed down their throats. I shall allow for the concession that they don’t posses the maturity to decide the course of their study themselves. But what about those who do? Despite having gone to the best of institutes and colleges even, today the major of the educated and working elite shall be able to recall very little of the science and literature they ever came across in their formative years. The unnervingly sad part is that they never made an attempt to come across it again.
  • While the idea of teaching all pupils everything might be a noble one, the exercise is as futile as trying to circumcise a fully awake lion with a paper cutter. We like to live in a world of endless possibilities and opportunities while we actually live in one with limited jobs and uncontrollable births. Once the foundations of an education have been laid, what is the point of adding pointless knowledge to an already fatigued mind? The calculation of the Earth’s gravitational pull on a satellite placed between it and Venus might be an interesting exercise but without utility to someone whose future is to be spent writing HTML tags for web pages.

Life at Work

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Organizational bureaucracy and red tape is still not a thing, just of Dilbert Comic strips. In every large or small institution you shall find people and procedures which shall stand in proud defiance of rationality despite the education and experience that might have put them there. Repetitive tasks, form filling, writing lengthy documents unfit for human consumption and user manuals which could only be made more incomprehensible if they were handwritten by a physician. Long distance phone calls, meetings across time-zones and inordinately expensive intercontinental trips to transport someone who’d decide the orientation of a pop up at the most. These are all things that shall stink of rationed rationals but perhaps you’d embrace when you finally bury your enthusiasm into the deep and comfy bosom of multi-national corporations.

Life at Home

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  • Husband and wife should be equals they say, for a marriage to be truly successful. Say by some premeditated wooing or by falling on the favorable side of probability ( being lucky as people call it) you do end up with a like minded individual there shall still be considerable differences in minds as a result of individuality. Then on the behest of love and general peace in the household we find ourselves agreeing to opinions and choices to keep the ball rolling.There is a conflict between what seems right and what is workable and often the rational thing to do turns to be the irrational one. Whether it be paying municipality bills, discussing housing society issues, negotiating your position with the billing clerk at a local supermarket or debating cleaning techniques with the household help. Irrational behavior stands up to you like self righteous anarchists to repressive patriarchal regimes.
  • While minds might match, faith will not. Countless stories of agnostic husbands flanked by wives of unwavering faith going to temples and churches fill popular media and conversations. Those who stand for nothing often have to fall for anything. The parental choosing of a child’s religion is one thing but the marital imposition of supernatural faith another. Rites and rituals ensue with a knowledge of their hollowness but with the promise of culture inculcation in your off springs. If this very awareness of emptiness of the gestures exists why indulge in them at all? Due to some misconceived notion of a puzzling what if?

General Notes

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  • The idea behind this discourse or rant, is not to mention those irrational things which others do but which circumstances have us doing with our knowledge.
  • The Joy in Irrationality I am sure schools with overly generous research grants must be churning out research papers on this. We all do things which make no sense now and again. Classified as quirks and eccentricities these become our personality identifiers. We indulge in them for they dispense some sense of satisfaction and joy. Doing things which go beyond reason can be a rewarding experience at times. Spontaneity is often confused with irrational behavior but you can do things on the spur of the moment and still be aware of their consequences.

Its those actions which we know as stupid, irrelevant, without purpose and promise, and still we perform them with uninterrupted gusto, if a little complaining, that I’d call conscious irrationality in daily existence.

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One thought on “The Irrationality of Everyday Life

  1. What you term as irrationality, may not be totally irrational behavior. For example, the education system that was based on rote-learning/memorizing might not have taught students much of knowledge, but it inculcated a sense of discipline in them. Only if you can sit down and listen to lectures for many hours a day, you can take the grind of routine jobs that will come by your way, later on?
    If you analyze each and everything we do, there is some reason. Often, this reason may not be evident to the conscious mind.
    Destination Infinity

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