Most of the important decisions I have made in my life were governed more by gut feeling than empirical data. Potentially, this indicates a tendency towards magical thinking that makes me more vulnerable to manipulation by charismatic figures and conspiracy theories. Or possibly, I am tapping into an inner wisdom that shapes my experience of reality in ways that better align with a cosmic order. The truth is probably somewhere in between. But when faced with the uncertainty of a global pandemic that is as yet to be fully understood, where do I place my trust?
Generally speaking, I distrust the official story on anything of great importance. Not because I think there is a cabal of evil overlords pulling all the strings but because it seems obvious to me that we have deeply entrenched societal mores which incentivize injustice and effectively manufacture enough consent to ensure our acquiescence. I am not sure if that makes me sound like a loon or a sensible person. I suppose the important thing is the degree to which my actions might cause harm to others.
I have spent my entire adult life propagating a belief that anyone can cultivate an inner sense of knowing that is the key to remaining true to ourselves and making best choices.
Trusting my intuition is rooted in the teachings of yoga I have embraced. The basic idea goes something like: Through the practice of sustained attention, we can cultivate a stabler mind and clearer perception, which leads to a sense of knowing within ourselves that shows us the truth of who we are by helping guide our attitudes and actions. My sense of confidence and fortitude in the face of fear and uncertainty is proportional to the level of trust I have in my own ability to discern.
The most significant inflection points I have faced, almost always presented both an ostensibly obvious choice and another questionable option that felt more right to me, even though I could not explain why to others. The few times I chose the former, I experienced deep regret. Doing the obvious usually meant doing what was expected of me, which rarely had my interests at heart. When I am able to make myself quiet enough inside to hear it, there is a clear voice that consistently steers me towards an unconventional direction where I can somehow still function in the world without sacrificing my sense of purpose.
At the same time, the worst mistakes I have ever made were often a result of narcissistic tendencies in me that are rooted in privilege.
Many of the role models I have been exposed to are examples of leveraging narcissism to achieve an amount of success in life. Being able to hold myself in high regard is at the heart of the charisma I readily rely upon to communicate ideas and connect with others. This love of myself has both served me and, at times, led me astray. Ideally, I am modeling self-love and others are able to benefit from it. But without a proper counter-balance of radical transparency and self-reflection, my strength can inadvertently cause harm to others and undermine everything I believe in.
Before the pandemic hit, the yoga world was witnessing a complete collapse of authority and trust in the guru traditions. It all starts to feel like a bunch of bullshit when it turns out that the “yoga masters”’ are actually rapists and charlatans. In response to the deep wounds that these abusers have wrought, many have looked to science and institutional reform to provide accountability and safety. With this backdrop, charisma has become associated with manipulation. Asserting that people can trust their intuitions to make the right choice has become code for placing yourself above others and being irresponsible.
The ultimate authority is the one that exists in me, but I am certainly going to hedge any bets on the expertise of outside sources.
When I look at the data that is being presented to illustrate the impact of the pandemic, it does not seem clear to me what is happening. I have read conflicting opinions from reputable epidemiologists and virologists with varying viewpoints. That is not to say we should ignore the guidelines that authorities have put forth. But decisions made to achieve an idea of equal outcomes, especially when it involves public health, requires us to act with crude strokes that do not allow for the nuance that life encompasses. And given the corruption that is grossly on display across the political spectrum, questioning the predominant narrative is not only understandable but prudent.
Nonetheless, my intuition may serve an important function but doesn’t make me an expert on all things. I don’t have a right to hurt people and am responsible for my words and deeds. It is imperative that we nurture the sense of community and mutual aid needed to tackle not just this current crisis but the others that are sure to come. If we are making our voices public, let’s make sure we know what we are talking about and be transparent so we don’t become pawns in someone else’s misgiving.
In the absence of more definitive explanations, and out of concern for the welfare of others, adopting a “trust but verify” stance feels like the right thing to do. At the same time, I do not think it wise to cede autonomy over my personal choices to an external authority, be it a yoga guru or a politician. There must be a way to both take into account the best science we have and still value and trust our own ability to know truth from within.