Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Trust your gut

Note: I'm not a psychologist. The following is based on personal experience only, probably including generalizations and skewed perceptions.

With my recent moving to another place, I've had to make many decisions, both big and small. Most people think that, once you've gathered enough information, you make your decisions as follows:

  1. think about the pros and cons of each option;
  2. make decision based on the balance between the pros and cons.

But I noticed that the process is usually more like this:

  1. make decision;
  2. pretend to think about the pros and cons;
  3. reinforce decision by stressing the pros and diminshing the cons.

The catch is that the making of the decision happens unconciously: you have often already decided before you're even aware of it. All thinking after that point only serves to rationalize it for yourself or others.

I also noticed that my unconscious decisions very often turn out to be right. If I overrule them with some rational argument, it often turns out that the rational argumentation was overlooking some important point. Apparently, more thinking happens “behind the scenes” than you know. And once you've decided, how important is the reasoning anyway?

So, I try to keep an eye on my subconscious. When I notice that it has already made the decision, I often go with it. It saves a lot of time and effort spent on needless thinking.

God does play dice

Einstein was wrong. God does play dice. I heard them rolling tonight.

It was nice enough weather for most of the day. A bit warm and clammy, but not much to complain about. Until, at half past nine, I looked out the window and saw it getting at least three stops darker over the course of less than eight minutes.

A quick check of the radar pictures confirmed that a pretty heavy thunderstorm was rapidly coming my way.

I had tried to photograph lightning the day before, but that had been in the afternoon. I couldn't use a long enough exposure time because the daylight was still too bright. Out of hundreds of pictures I only got one with a small lightning bolt on it. This time, it was rapidly getting darker, and not only because evening was falling. I must be able to do better.

I grabbed my camera and tripod and ran up the stairs to the walkway on the 7th floor. Out there the wind was getting stronger, and I had trouble keeping the camera steady on my light tripod. I removed the cord from the camera to make it catch less wind.

Varying the exposure time between 1/4th of a second and 15 seconds, I snapped many pictures in a row. The camera was a bit too slow for the task, so I didn't want to waste time looking whether I got any decent pictures. I took care to heavily underexpose them, so that when lightning arrived, it would not overexpose the picture.

Thunder rolled time and time again. It was as if someone up there was rolling his massive dice over the clouds each time the light flashed. I wondered whether even God would know the outcome of His roll in advance—if so, why was He even playing?

In the meantime it had started to rain, and the walkway on one side of the flat was pretty open to it. I took back a few steps to avoid getting drops on the lens and ruining my pictures. Many awesome lightning bolts flashed before my eyes, but often right in between two exposures. It seemed like the dice were loaded in my disadvantage.

When the best part of the storm seemed over, I folded up the tripod and turned off the camera. I smiled as I saw, right before the automatic lens cap closed, that the lens was dry.

As soon as I was back in my apartment, I pulled the 684 pictures off the card and started flicking through them. Many of the pictures had a light, pink sky, but no directly visible lightning. But I had gotten lucky a few times.

Then, while sorting out the pictures, I saw more flashes out of the corner of my eye. It wasn't over yet! So I mounted the camera on the tripod again and, not taking the time for all the stairs, went out onto the balcony. I could hear from the many shouts and exclamations that I was not the only one watching the show.

Suddenly, there was a flash brighter than all the others had been. Even before the light had died out, a cracking, deafening thunderclap sounded. “Fucking hell!” I exclaimed. The impact couldn't have been much over a hundred metres away.

Then I figured that, after this close call and my profanity, I'd better get back inside. God does play dice. I heard them rolling tonight. And I wouldn't want them to come down on my head.