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Thought Of The Week

PROBLEM SOLVING


The human mind tries to solve a vast array of problems. Toddlers try to get the food to the mouth. Adults try to avoid traffic. Artists try to render beauty into the world that others can experience. Some want to create purpose in life. Some want to stop fighting with their spouse. Most of us struggle, in a moment that counts, to find the right words. It is a problem.

I have found that most of us are born with the ability to solve some problems well, and also find that certain problems are a challenge. There are those gifted mechanically, but can't find words. Some know how to make money, but not how to express love. Some can manage other people well, but not manage their emotions in intimate relationships. Great scholars can be inept parents. Compassionate people often avoid facts. Judgmental people often avoid empathy.

The fact that we are good at some things, but bad at others, presents a problem in itself: the ego self (unconscious patterns of thinking and feeling) projects its competence in one area to another. I have seen many a person make a good living in a given area, retire, and assume that their special expertise applies everywhere. Hard lessons are often learned. Or not.

Many of us twist or avoid reality to affirm a position to which we are attached, politically and interpersonally and everything in between. There is no reward to one's agenda to be able to face facts. There is greater reward in persuading someone else to buy into one's own image of how we need the world to be. Some people can face facts better than others. Some people get mad at facts.

A sign of wisdom is the ability of a person to admit that they are not good at something, especially something that they want to be good at, ought to be good at, or that others want them to be good at. A sign of character is a person's will to at least become good at something that does not come easy; to be deeply content with becoming good but not great, to stick with it, to sacrifice time, energy and ego in the humbling search for competence, not excellence.

I've see hotheaded people devote themselves wholeheartedly to not criticize, complain, condemn, accuse, blame, or engage in useless conflict. Their values were good, but they could not solve the problem of their volatile feelings. Then they learned to solve the problem. Spouse and children are eternally grateful.

I've seen people who think with their feelings develop the ability to master the facts, then bring values to bear, then think of what policy to consider.

When I try to sum up one basic level of the spiritual practice to which I am devoted, which I teach and that I employ when I counsel, it is the ability, the wisdom, the courage, the humility, to problem solve well.

Rabbi Mordecai Finley





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