Most of us often regard one aspect of our lives to be supreme over the others, and as a result, we take the others for granted. We heighten the importance of the one we are most comfortable with, the one that resonates with our personality, and we diminish the significance of the others. For example, one who lives the life of the mind – the scholar who’s learned to value the mind as a means of living and understanding the world is apt to favor the mind above all else, content to pursue the mind above all matters, often content to intellectualize all things, organize all things into little compartments, to mechanize everything possible in order to draw logical connections between all aspects of his existence. This, however, while a realistic and rational approach, does not allow him to experience the soft nuances and wonder of life. By reducing all existence to a mechanistic process we are hardened and left out in the cold, and we are reminded time and time again that some of our theoretical understandings of the world appear misaligned with our practical experiences, and we slowly drift away and lose touch with the world and the people who mean the most to us. Many in this camp live lives of quiet desperation usually wrapped up in thoughts, always trying to rationalize their experiences as some piece, some cog in the wheel of unencumbered reality.
The life of the mind is important – it is favorable for us to be thinking creatures. And while it may take away some of the mystery of life, it is nonetheless important to be realists and depend more on our knowledge than our ignorance. Knowledge empowers us. It gives us understanding. The mind is usually awakened from its slumber with new thoughts, new concepts, new revelations, and a spark of enthusiasm is generated with every such experience. Knowledge can be exhilarating; the mind revels in the oceans of the yet unknown.
Life of the Mind Above All?
But, as is usually the case with such things, the negative aspects are often overlooked. And so we respond to our intellect because it orders reality for us, but we fail to see the consequences of our minds being our only mode of operation. Life was not meant to be internal, not meant to be lived merely inside the mind; wasn’t meant to be mechanized, biologized, reduced beyond the measure of its fullness. One can accomplish many great things with the stoic posture of cold and hard facts and figures, but the thrills of life can escape through the fingers of such a person like the fine-grained sand of the hourglass. The soft and tender melody of our experiences is what give us the poignant memories and leave us breathless in the wake of our wonder with life. The softer moments embed themselves on our conscience and teach us that life is not merely a predictable set of recognizable data points. There is so much more!
An internal life is of very little consequence in the practical world and theoretical truths usually take a back seat to human experience. The mere internal life of the mind is a lonely life devoid of affection and lasting purpose. It is a life with full intention, but with very little action; it’s full of light, but with very little warmth. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it is also a terrible thing to misuse and even a worse thing to overuse to the detriment of the totality of the human experience.
See also, the life of the heart and the life of the soul.