December 5, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      "What were they thinking?" You've probably been with friends or family, watching something unbelievable unfold before you, and found yourself asking that question, haven't you?
      Sometimes it's something petty; other times, it's monumental. Sometimes, it is within arms-length; other times, it's on CNN's continuous loop of each day's most-bizarre headlines. What were they thinking?
      These are the single-scenes of human behavior that defy explanation. A 15-year-old boy with a gun, at his school; a 35-year-old Iraqi woman with an explosive belt, at a wedding in Ammon. What were they thinking? Don't you wonder?
      I've been a Malcolm Gladwell fan since I first encountered his writing in The Tipping Point. He's a writer on the staff of The New Yorker; formerly, he was a business and science reporter for The Washington Post. Monthly media is his "day job;" insightful non-fiction is his broader contribution to our generation.
      His newest deliverable - blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - is, perhaps, even more eye-opening than Tipping Point.
      Gladwell makes a great case for the value of intuitive decision making. He spends 250 pages painting the picture of modern life, where we're capable of analyzing everything ad nauseum... and, on the basis of the resultant mounds of data and reams of research, making really dumb decisions. The alternative: mold the unconscious with the right stuff, and then trust your quick thinking to deliver great conclusions.
      He makes his case with positive, and negative, examples. Not all unconscious thought can be trusted; if you're loaded-up with corroded concepts, bound by bogus preconclusions... your reactive decision making will be as flawed as your storehouse of bias ed and warped convictions. But, if you've got the right stuff in your vault... the value of your knee-jerk reactions is quite high.
      Drawing from illustrations from important real-life environments - health care, world-class sports, strategic military engagement, national politics, international business - he cites innumerable scenes where the potential of the quick answer beats the systematic evaluation by the experts. If your unconscious is loaded with the wrong stuff, it's dangerous; if it has the right stuff, it's unbeatable.
      Those, by the way, are the only possibilities. Your database is either right-on... or, it isn't. Wrong may not be evil... but, if it isn't right, it's wrong enough.
      The research and case studies available to Gladwell weren't within Google-range for the Apostle Paul, but his writing displayed an understanding of the very same insights. In Paul's unfolding description of the life that was founded on faith in the Lord Jesus, he staked out the critical next-steps for the serious. He knew that every person who steps into spiritual life had a mind-shift to make: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2). Trying to pull-off the transformed life without a transformed mind was inherently impossible.
      In Gladwell's lingo, it's the ability to blink instead of think: to have such a transformed capacity that, without having to ponder... you can make extraordinary decisions. How's that happen, for the Christian? "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:11-16). Wow!
      God called Jesus "the Word;" he calls the Bible "the word." When "the word" becomes unconscious, and we have the Spirit as our operating system... we have "the mind of Christ." We can really blink...

Bob Shank


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