Taylor: Moments of absolute clarity

Cherish the fleeting glimmer of clarity called intuition.

Four weeks ago, I wrote that I probably wouldn’t recognize an intuition if it performed brain surgery on me. I wasn’t totally honest in saying that. I have, occasionally, had flashes of intuition.

Few enough, though, that I can count them. Five. Of which three particularly stick in memory.

When our son was barely two, I saw him standing at our living room window, gazing out through the rain drops streaking the glass at the street outside. Somehow I knew that this was a premonition of his life. He would be an outsider, looking on at what others considered normal childhood.

Five full years later he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, the incurable hereditary disease that shaped his life and eventually ended it.

Thirty years later, waiting for a traffic light to change, I knew with absolute certainty that my editorial assistant, Tim Faller, would soon find a new job he needed. He did.

And just last week, I had a sudden awareness that the mental mindset shaping my life was hemming me in, closing doors, cutting off opportunities. I knew I had to reject it.

I did. Or at least, I think I did—only time will tell.

It’s amazing how these intuitions happen. It’s as if all the pieces of a gigantic puzzle were jiggling around loose on a Ouija board. And then suddenly, unexpectedly, they all click into place. The moment of clarity may last only a second, even less. Then the analytic mind leaps into action, questioning, challenging, disputing…

And the pieces fall apart again. But for that instant, everything comes crystal clear.

Recently I ran across a quotation from M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Travelled and People of the Lie. “The subconscious,” he said, “is always half a step ahead of the conscious.”

Put another way, our conscious minds constantly weigh alternatives. They develop flow charts and schedules. They balance pros against cons, costs against benefits. And they dither, interminably.

The subconscious mind doesn’t work rationally. It simply sends out feelers—or feelings—that probe the fog of the future, through dreams and daydreams, fantasies and fears.

That moment of utter clarity, I suspect, comes when the subconscious and the conscious overlap perfectly.

But you have to be watching for that moment. Because in the next instant, the layers of awareness will slide apart again.

I’ve probably had other intuitions that I didn’t recognize, because I wasn’t looking for them.

And still others that I don’t remember because things didn’t work out the way I expected them to.

I’m also sure I have deluded myself that I have had intuitions when I haven’t. I was simply seeking external confirmation for what I wanted to do anyway. We humans have a rare capacity for marshalling rational arguments to justify our temptations.

So I rarely trust an intuition just because it flickers across my mental screen like a misplaced Powerpoint slide. Errors happen in minds as well as computer programs.

But I do believe that intuitions happen. Sometimes. If I’m willing to pay attention to them.