Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Conation, Questing, Stay-or-Go Decisions
I've been reading about conation. Conation deals with intentional, volitional activity - the actions we choose to take - and it is described as the third part of the human mind: affective (emotional), cognitive(thinking), conative (deciding and acting).
Plato and Aristotle spoke of the three faculties as think, feel, and act.
Augustine described a three-fold division of knowing, feeling and willing.
Kant saw three irreducible components of the mind: knowledge, feeling, and desire.
The challenge of conation (to me, anyway) is choosing among alternatives. Last night I was wrestling with a choice among alternatives, and today I am faced with coming to terms with the result of my conation, my decision. It's not cosmic or world-changing; the little things are much more difficult.
We had picked Tues-Wed-Thur-Fri of this week for our annual Pittsburgh-DC bike ride. We picked these days based mostly on it being after the school year resumed, a period when we could all arrange to be gone, a time of cooler weather before the days become prohibitively short. It was, to be honest, a wag made months ago.
The Weather did not care about our plans; the forecast for our four-day bicycle trip promised to be quite rainy. On these trails, the rain soaks the surface more than the riders; especially between Cumberland and DC, the route can become a muddy bog (a term which is rarely associated with a good time).
And so a dilemma: Stay or Go? The trip gains a certain inertia of its own; we have told friends and colleagues about the trip, we've blocked our schedules for the time off, we've made plans to cover our obligations, and the ride itself grows from a bike ride into a Mythic Quest, our small group morphs from Four Geezers into the Fellowship of the Taint, and you don't have to be Robert Bly to know that once a bike ride turns into a Narrative, decision making is problematic.
As always, women have the sense to stay out of the rain. Knowing our fragile psyches, one or more of the Spousal Units will drop, "you guys aren't smart enough to cancel", and rhetorically that's a very effective position.
So among our merry band the knowledge of Wifely Truth percolated through our porous lizard brains and we decided to cancel - not because we couldn't do the trip, you understand, but because at this age we're more mature, yeah that's it, mature. Nothing to prove here. What are you looking at?
The problem with a "no-go" decision is that it tugs at you, you'll never know what would have happened if you went, maybe you could have made it work, a little rain isn't fatal, and then the skies clear out a bit in the afternoon and the self-noodging begins.
I sure hope we get to ride to DC later in the year.
(keen observers will notice the video contains both the World Trade Center and Shea Stadium (venue of the Beatle's first US concert), neither of which are still with us)