Peter Baumann explains why being comfortable with confusion, paradox, and ambiguity is necessary to deal with our notions of "right" and "wrong." Baumann is the founder of Being Human.
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Transcript: Ambiguity, paradox, confusion are also some of my favorite subjects. The two lions that we often see in the Far East, they're supposed to represent confusion and paradox. And they guard the gate to heaven. So if you want to "get to heaven" you have to be comfortable with confusion and with paradox. And one example of being comfortable with paradox as we often hear that we should accept life the way it is. And but of course there are many things that we don't accept. So we can have the paradox of accepting that we can't accept. I mean we can't accept violence against women or children or even against other men. But we can accept that we can't accept that. So the paradox in this case is extremely, extremely important. So it's not a whitewash to say hey, I accept everything. That's nonsense to begin with.
But where do you parse it. Where do you say that you accept something or not. And being comfortable with the paradox of accepting but also accepting that we do not accept certain things, that's how paradox plays itself out. And confusion is that we live in an extremely complex world and it's not a straight and narrow. Most things have an upside and a downside and to weigh them out is very difficult, you know. We would love to have a very simple answer, a black and white answer. Is it good for me? Is it bad for me? But that's very rarely the case. We evolved to want to have simple answers because the brain then doesn't have to work overtime to analyze any situation. And the more complex the situation and the more confusing, the more the brain has to work. That's why we don't like confusion. We want to have simple straightforward, black and white answers. But that's probably not going happen for anything.
I personally don't like the word right and wrong because for different people right and wrong looks very different. And I think that it can be coached in a little bit of a different way. So I like to look at things that work or that don't work. I believe that human beings fundamentally want life to flourish. We love and when we see life flourish be it a new flower or a tree sprouting in the springtime or any beautiful new thing that we experience -- a new baby. It's just we love it and we have a really positive feeling towards when life flourishes. So right and wrong gets it very much into a mental status and we compare to a whole list of what we think is good for life and what we think is bad for life. But underlying I think it's much more interesting to pay attention to whether something works to have life flourish or not.
So if you step on an ant obviously that doesn't help very much for life to flourish. Is it right or wrong to kill a mosquito? I don't know. I mean in my book it works for me so the mosquito doesn't give me malaria. So it helps my life to flourish but obviously it doesn't help the mosquito's life to flourish. So I believe it's much more valuable to recognize it in terms of working and not working rather than right and wrong.
Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton
Tagged under: Big Think,BigThink,BigThink.,Education,Educational,Lifelong Learning,EDU,Paradox,Confusion,Peter Baumann (Musical Artist),Being Human,Right,Wrong,Life,Logic,Brain,Behavior,Mind,Philosophy,Ethics
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