Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Practice In Rational Thought - A Daily Exercise



Song:  Slow

Artist:  Rumer



The most important intellectual process is one of rational thought.

It is with rational thought that all else may be discovered and utilized
in an efficient and effective manner.


The Scientific Method is a process of rational thought
specifically designed to solve a problem or answer a question...
and, ultimately, which is in line with empirical evidence...
or establishes a new scientific truth or principle.

 (All photos and diagrams from Google Images)



However, this article is not about the Scientific Method.

It is about the everyday use of rational thinking to make sense of the world around us.

Just as with almost everything biological in nature...
that which is not used...is eventually lost...
and that which is practiced...eventually adapts to become stronger.


Formation of a habit while young...
frequently carries on through adulthood.


As far back as I can remember...
whenever my father and I were outside
(or sometimes just during a conversation at home)...
he would point something out and ask me why or why not something was.

He would sometimes ask me to scan my surroundings and to tell him what
I thought was out of place and the reason behind it being so.


He was teaching me how to think rationally.


I frequently ask Alex the same things...
and for the same reasons.


Just yesterday...
on our way home from Alex's class at UNR...
I had spotted a yard maintenance crew busily at work on a neighborhood yard...
less than a mile from our home.

All of the men were dressed in long sleeved shirts...
long legged pants, hats, and boots...
with the exception of one.

This is what had caught my eye.

As we were driving past...
I had Alex look at the scene passing us by...
and I had asked him what had seemed out of place.

At first...
he had not seen it.

I had told him to look at their clothing.

He had then spotted the anomaly.

-----------

I will first explain what we had seen.

Then...
I would like you to come up with a plausible explanation.


I will then tell you my plausible explanation.


-----------


Setting:


Location:  In the hills above Reno, NV

Season:  Spring

Sky:  Clear

Elevation:  Approximately 5,400 ft.

 Time - 0915 hrs. (9:15 AM)

Temperature:  mid 50s

Wind:  Approximately 5 mph.




Crew:


6 men

5 men were wearing long sleeved shirts...
long legged pants...
a hat and boots.

1 man was wearing, in addition to the above clothing...
an almost fully zipped hooded sweat shirt over the shirt...
and a partially zipped heavy jacket over this.




Actions of the crew:

5 of the men were working efficiently and with their heads down...
no real wasted motion...and they had a cadence...
a rhythm which was steady and quick...but not rushed.

The one overly dressed man was pushing on a powered lawn mower
as if he needed to help it overcome a slight incline.

He was stealing glances at his coworkers as he worked.

His breathing was through an open mouth...and he was slightly out of breath.
All the others had closed mouths.

There was no visible sheen on any of their skins indicating perspiration.

The overdressed man was looking around the lawn as a whole
 as if to see if he had gotten all the spots as he mowed.



My clothing:

Flannel long sleeved shirt, shorts, sandals

(the only reason for the long sleeved shirt is
that we leave for UNR at 0715 and I usually stand outside
Alex's building, listening to music, until he finishes his class).



Alex's clothing:

A sleeveless unbuttoned light vest
A light pull over shirt
Long legged pants
Shoes


-----------------

This is the only information Alex and I had.

What scenario do you come up with to plausibly explain the described observations?

______________


Of course...
I have no way of knowing what the true explanation for what we had seen is.

However...
this is not the point.

The point is to observe our surroundings...
to spot anomalies or patterns and/or a disruption of a pattern...
and to question yourself why or why not.

This is not only an easy exercise in rational thinking...
it is something which teaches children how to observe and question
all things around them, and how to formulate their own plausible explanations.

During our long drives in the country...
I often ask Alex about the distant surroundings...
and I will have him explain the reasons behind what he sees...
or does not see (what should have been there as part of a pattern).


A child who learns how to observe and question things around him
(with people also...trying to discern situations and possible motives)...
rarely gets bored.

Life becomes interesting...
and he gets practice in rational thinking.


--------------------------



My plausible scenario

(remember...I could easily not be correct in fact.
It is, however, a rational assumption based on what is known)


The crew:

was experienced and they had been working together for some time
(minus the new guy).



The young man:


was new to the crew and inexperienced in landscaping

was neither related to any of his coworkers...
nor was he close friends with them
(at the time).

was a recent arrival to Reno
and had come from a much warmer climate
which was also much lower in elevation.

was raised with country values

deeply loves his parents and/or his family

had skipped his normal breakfast at McDonalds...
and had instead gone to Denny's...
and had ordered a med-well cheese burger
and a chocolate shake...
without the whip cream or cherry on top.




My rationale:


The crew

Their motions were efficient because these motions were
heavily practiced due to pure repetition.

They also didn't have to look around at each other...
as they trusted in the others' work.

They also had situational awareness.
They didn't have to constantly look around to gauge their progress.





The young man



(He was new to the crew and inexperienced in landscaping)


He was leaning into a powered lawn mower and trying to push it faster.

A powered lawn mower goes by itself...
at a speed which is optimum for the clean cutting of the grass.

Most are direct driven by chain and do not allow users to push it faster
than it is naturally geared for.  The wheels will just slide on the grass...
leaving behind an ugly scar.

An experienced user of powered mowers stands back and merely guides
the mower by steering the handles.

He was also looking at the lawn as he tried to assure he had gotten all of the grass.
An experienced landscaper has a basic pattern in his mind of his route of cut...
even before he starts.

Also...
as they have regular clientele...
he would have done this same lawn before were he on the crew for long...
and so...he would have not needed to look around to have determined
his next cutting route.






(He was neither related to any of his coworkers...
nor was he close friends with them
(at the time).)



Had the young man been related...
or even close friends with the other members of the crew...
he would not have been stealing glances at them to see if they recognized
how much effort he was expending...as if he were trying to impress them.

Were he known intimately by them...
they would have already known of his work ethics.








(He was a recent arrival to Reno
and had come from a much warmer climate...
and one which is much lower in elevation.)



Of course...
the extra heavy clothing he was wearing...
and the absence of heavy perspiration...
tells me that he hadn't been here long enough
to have been acclimated to the lower temperatures
than from where he had recently come.

It also told me he didn't have a bad cold.
He would have been perspiring heavily...
and his actions would have been more lethargic.

Also, he was breathing through his mouth.
Of course, he was trying to push a powered mower...
however, he wasn't exerting so much as to force
him to breathe deeply through his mouth.

He was not use to the elevation (5,400 ft.).





(He was raised with country values)


You will see no harder working, or more enthusiastic workers...
than those who had been raised in the country...
and have the country work ethics.

Whatever they may lack in city sophistication...
they will more than make up through
simply outworking all others.


This young man was eager to please and impress others
by demonstrating his applied efforts.

He wanted to show the others that he was a hard worker...
and that he was proud of his country values of hard work.






(He deeply loved his parents and/or family)



Nothing makes a man work with the fervor of an unleashed demon
so much as when he is working towards a dream.

Landscaping is not the end dream of someone
so much as a starting point from which to make a better life
for those he deeply loves and respects.

A man who is too lazy to apply effort in his life...
is one who lives just for his own hedonistic self.

He merely wishes to slide by in life...
with the most minimal effort expended...
and with just the short term pleasure
of the day to look forward to.







(He had skipped his normal breakfast at McDonalds...
and had instead gone to Denny's...
and had ordered a med-well cheese burger
and a chocolate shake...
without the whip cream or cherry on top.)



Sorry...
I was joking.
You didn't actually believe I could have gotten this from the presented observations...
did you?  :)  :)  :)


----------------------



Now...
my assumptions were heavily based on life experience...
and from my perception of feeling what the others were feeling at the time...
as projected by their posture, balance, efficiency of motion...
other body language and facial expressions...
 the timing and accenting of their motions
as individuals and how they interacted within the group...etc...
or the absence thereof.



As children do not have the benefit of experience...
by noticing things around them in the first place
and then playing back the scenario in the movie of the mind...
they may dissect and understand motives and feelings...
and the implications of them.

They will then be able to not only understand what had transpired...
but they will be able to more accurately predict future similar actions in others.


Remember...
the focus of this is to come up with the most plausible explanations
for unknown situations.

Of course...
they may prove to be incorrect.

However...
it is through this process that a child will become more experienced.
Rational thought which is assisted by experience...
leads to far better explanations.



Again...
in order for a child to be able to benefit from such exercises...
he must first observe his surroundings closely...
to take it slowly and carefully...
and to come up with a reasonable explanation for what he had observed.

This exercise is what shall lead him to first...
carefully observe...
dissect and digest that which he had seen...
and to come up with plausible scenarios...
which is all practice for rational thinking...
and it all starts with a parent asking the child
about why or why not.












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