FiveYou spell “trust” using only four letters: T, R, U, and S.

Is it a five-letter word or a four-letter word?

To “count on” something means to trust it, but if you “count on your fingers” to five, you only use four fingers. The five has to be counted using a thumb.

So, you can’t even count on the phrase “count on your fingers” to tell the whole story.

People have many virtues.

They can be charming, sociable, outgoing. They can be strong, resilient, tough. They can be industrious, energetic, productive. They can be creative, artsy, soulful.

And they can also be intelligent, insightful, wise.

Charm, strength, industry, and creativity, when applied foolishly, cannot be trusted. Those virtues are like the accelerator on a car, while insight is the steering wheel. You’ll get to your goal driving slowly in the right direction far faster than driving quickly in the wrong direction.

Poor acceleration? You might have to be patient. Poor steering? You might have to be hospitalized. Or buried. But, you’re probably not going to get where you wanted to go.

The other virtues are valuable, but intelligence is the thumb that transforms a clumsy paw into the hand, which built civilization. Which holds the pen that wrote all laws and literature. Which, pointing up or down, makes judgments both moral and rational.

It is natural for insight to judge. You can trust insight to judge how charming charm is more than you can trust charm to judge how insightful insight is. The same dynamic applies to strength, energy, and creativity.

Those four do not understand insight. Insight understands them. All can trust the insight of the insightful, and should. But, because they misjudge insight, most often do not trust the insight of the insightful. Even when insight steers a safe path through a very tricky situation, charming will complain it wasn’t done politely enough, tough will complain it wasn’t done forcefully enough, industry will complain it wasn’t profitable enough, and creativity will complain it was uninspired. Their judgments, and thus their complaints, are misguided.

In fact, while reading this, many whose virtues fall among the four are doing the very thing they don’t like being told they’re doing. They’re judging insight according to charm, strength, industry, or creativity. And, their judgment is thereby flawed. They should stop this: be who you are, and stop trying to be who you are not. Excel at who you are, and stop failing at who you are not. Let others benefit from your virtues, and let yourself benefit from theirs.

The insight of charm, strength, industry, and creativity cannot be trusted any more than the charm, strength, industry, and creativity of insight can be. The right thing to do is sometimes (but not always) impolite, passive, unproductive, or ugly. Each is its own virtue and should be valued for what it is, not what it isn’t.

So, the other virtues should trust the insight of insight, and insight should trust them only to be what they are. The insightful can trust the charming to be charming. The insightful can trust the strong to be strong, the energetic to be energetic, the creative to be creative.

But, you can’t trust anyone to be what they’re not. You can’t trust the charming to be strong, or the energetic to be creative. (Unless the individual excels at both.)

When the charming, the strong, the productive, or the soulful demand their insight be respected, they have made themselves dangerous, like a blind man grasping at the wheel of a car. They will steer the car off the road, and maybe off a cliff.

When the “car” is a romance or a family, this is bad enough. When it’s an entire community or a corporation, it’s worse. When it’s civilization, it’s an apocalypse.

There are many theories about why civilizations rise and fall. Specifically why they rise from barbarism only to fall to barbarians, who then build their own civilizations. And then, fall.

The distinction between introverts and extraverts is poorly defined. Too much research depends on unreliable self-report surveys and there are too many social pressures and enticements to self-identify as one or the other, or both/neither. However, extraversion-introversion research has inadvertently discovered an empirical basis for a distinction between rational, fore-brain thinking and emotional, social thinking.

Charm, resilience, industry, creativity. These are social virtues. They inform the diplomats, warriors, entrepreneurs, and artists who bind us together. They bind us together like mortar. But insight: that’s the bricks and steel girders of civilization.

When investigating the differences between introverts and extraverts, researchers found an intriguing dichotomy of thought processes that separate rational, fore-brain thinking and emotional, social thinking. Using positron emission tomography, they found two distinct pathways of stimuli, one channeling information first to the rational fore-brain before assigning it importance, the other completely bypassing the fore-brain to the social-emotional centers of the brain.

These distinct styles of thought inhere in different personalities. The social thinking of the charming, resilient, industrious, and the artistic. The rational thinking of the insightful.

In the more rural societies who typify what we dismissively have called “barbarism,” the environment with which each individual interacts is mostly the natural environment, where insightful types can apply their rational thinking to visibly demonstrable effect. Social types can’t help but see the results. So the rational types, despite often lacking social skills, rise in the social structure, giving the community a competitive boost over their neighbors.

Once these “barbarian” rural communities establish or conquer an urban society, however, the environment facing rational types becomes more and more social as they find themselves surrounded more and more by people. Research has shown that intelligent people are less happy the more they interact with other people. This is because the irrational shortcuts of social thinking rig the world against them.

In highly developed civilizations, the problems insightful types face become muddled by social biases which confuse and frustrate them and thus block their rise. Society gradually becomes taken over by less rational social thinkers whose biases boost them in a people-dominated environment.

This process explains the social thinking that takes civilizations over. Tribal identities and partisan political nonsense inevitably take over.

For example, the Nika Riots that rocked Constantinople. The late Roman Empire was the Idiocracy of the ancient world. The people were divided into color-coded factions that were both political parties and sports fan bases, each clique backing a different team in the chariot races. Social thinking trumped rational thinking in a spasm of social loyalties that eventually resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.

The empire was only saved from collapse (temporarily) when Emperor Justinian’s wife, a former prostitute and stripper, refused to flee the city, forcing him to bribe one faction and send his soldiers to slaughter another. “The Real Wives of Byzantium” could not have concocted a more absurdly scripted reality show.

The Empire eventually fell to barbarian outsiders, who established new civilizations that in turn fell prey to social, tribal thinking. The insular nature of Renaissance Europe, and the ruralization of the fringes of society created by colonialism, spawned a new class of barbarians who ushered in modern global civilization. But, we are in the midst of its fall, now.

Trust is the way out. The charming, the resilient, the industrious, and the creative must find a way to trust the insightful. They must understand that their virtues are valuable, but not insightful. Or institutions must be established to put the insightful back in their optimal position, able to share their wisdom effectively so that everyone can benefit.

The final tally mark makes the others whole. The thumb makes the paw a hand. In order to count on our fingers, we have to recognize and respect insight.

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