On the Corner

A beautiful mind

by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief – 

O! How much more to beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament that truth doth give.

Sometimes, we eagerly go about the process of “kidding ourselves”—being untruthful about ourselves to ourselves. It’s far from “kidding” that goes on. We con ourselves into acting on warped, distorted, irrational and untrue premises. This ugliness gets us into a lot of trouble.

Don’t you wonder, sometimes, why we let our thoughts stray so far from a helpful focus? We accept allegations as fact even in the absence of evidence. We zero in on negatives.

We get “down” on our selves.

I’m there rarely, but everyone’s there once in a while.
I think the thing I liked best about the movie A Beautiful Mind was the title.

I’m glad it wasn’t called “a beautiful brain.” From the brain pictures I’ve seen, brains look pretty ugly—a gray and white convoluted mass of something, very wrinkled and stuffed into a space that seems too small to contain it. We have no idea what our mind looks like. It can’t be seen. Only the product of its action becomes visible.

The mind needs the total person to perform its function. The brain is an essential element in that process, but it’s not enough to accomplish everything the mind must do.

I need my mind to manage my relationship with my world—to make sense of it—to give meaning to my experiences. It allows me to think and to organize my thoughts conceptually. I become able to put at least two concepts together and draw a conclusion. I can look ahead and plan for the future. I can anticipate consequences, use my will effectively, label my perceptions, and give meaning and evaluate my thoughts, feelings and actions.

But what makes a mind “beautiful?”

Beauty requires evidence. It must be visible. It doesn’t need specific or exact criteria. No particular form makes something or someone beautiful. Beauty is a “spiritual” quality that somehow triggers deeply satisfying thoughts. It communicates completeness – wholeness—integrity.

A beautiful mind creates.
A beautiful mind is considerate of others.
A beautiful mind is generous with praise.
A beautiful mind encourages.
A beautiful mind perseveres in the face of problems.
A beautiful mind maintains a consistent, positive self-image.
A beautiful mind stays active.
A beautiful mind avoids stereotyping others.
A beautiful mind motivates personal growth in all dimensions of life.
A beautiful mind is true.
A beautiful mind has awareness of its guiding values and belief system.
A beautiful mind is open.

Once in awhile, in the middle of some frustration when my expectations fail to match my realities, I image a water faucet attached to my brain with the spigot flowing—a brain drain that leaves me brainless. My thoughts become self-critical. My feelings begin to spiral down with an increasing crescendo of negativity. I begin to over-generalize with words laden with self-contempt. Whatever triggers this negative spiral may have started as an isolated minor matter. Soon, however, it escalates into a major assessment of my sense of self-worth. I feel very unbalanced in these moments. My mind seems the opposite of “beautiful” on those occasions.

During my brain-drain moments I resist growth by feeding the fears within me—a fear of discovery of my substantial inadequacy—a fear of the responsibility that comes with my freedom—a fear of death itself as well as the pain accompanying the death of a loved one.

But other times I image a reverse flow of valuable stuff enriching me, coming fast, and adding material. I can feel it, and it feels good. This “other stuff” does not emanate from external sources. It’s material I generate myself as I work to maintain harmony and balance in my thoughts, feelings and behavior. On these occasions, my mind seems to work like a magnificent watch, a well-oiled machine, a perfectly tuned sixteen cylinder engine purring along, delivering great power. The product of these bursts is not always wisdom. The effort does not always produce remarkable creativity, and the feelings that follow sometimes fail to bring contentment. Nevertheless, it was a “peak experience.”

Somewhere, along the way, I’ve set about the “joyful” task of trying to get to know my self fully. Most of the time, it’s a pleasant task. Sometimes it’s painful. I’ve learned it’s a continuing process, because I’m changing all the time. It’s on-going self-discovery. Who am I? What am I? Where am I going? What do I believe—about me, about my world, about others in it? At these times, I’m actually engaged in exploring my mind—not my

I have learned that life is a lot more than repetitious recovery, repentance and repair. I seek to unify myself through my belief system and through the character traits that belief system generates.

I recognize that the unification of self demands consistency in life. That it requires orderliness in behavior—that the choices I make need to reflect that consistency—that I fail my self if I am undisciplined in balancing my thoughts, feelings and behaviors—that my decisions have consequences that a beautiful mind allows me to discern if I am willing to undertake that task.

I’m still working at it, and I hope you are, too.

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