The Extinction of Discernment

Along with the dodo, the Tasmanian tiger, the wooly mammoth, and the passenger pigeon, here’s another item to add to the extinction list: discernment.

What is discernment? It is the ability to sense, grasp, and comprehend obscure ideas. It is the ability to think critically about something, to navigate the subtleties of right, wrong, and almost-right. It is not a blind intake or rejection of information, but rather a thoughtful chewing on each piece of information, perceiving how it fits with, conflicts with, or expands on what is true for you.

Discernment is an art. Well, it was an art - before it went extinct and disappeared from the face of the earth about two years ago.

What caused the extinction of discernment? We could say that it was a loss of habitat.

You see, discernment can only live in an open human heart. A closed heart is not suitable for discernment to survive. 

What led to this loss of habitat? What led to the closure of human hearts?

There were four factors that led to the closure of the human heart:

  1. A loss of connection. The digital world of social media, computers, cell phones, virtual reality and so on, is a false world with a lack of connection, invulnerability, stubbed intimacy, and inauthenticity. No real connection is possible when you really aren’t showing up to your life, taking risks, making friends, loving, and relating.
  2. A lack of meaning. A lack of connection sucks the meaning out of life. There are two factors involved in a lack of meaning. First, a lack of meaning involves a lack of significance. When things aren’t personally relevant or significant, they don’t matter; they lack meaning. Secondly, a lack of meaning involves a lack of sense-making. When things don’t make sense, they don’t matter. You sense meaninglessness when your life doesn’t seem personally significant or make sense to you.
  3. Free-floating anxiety. Next comes the anxiety. The feeling that something is wrong, missing, out of place or upside-down. You don’t know where it comes from or what in particular is causing the anxiety. It seems to seep into every area of your life and cause attacks of unease, worry, and dissatisfaction. You look for something - anything - that you can point to as the cause of your troubles. Once you find something, it becomes the Object of your Anxiety.
  4. Aggression. Once you can point your finger at the object of dissatisfaction, you get angry at it. Of course, it’s not actually the Object’s fault, but it feels really good to be mad at something, rather than anxious about nothing. At least there is an out. It doesn’t make sense, it does’t matter, it doesn’t even help the anxiety, but what it does is build a closed-hearted focus around an issue. 

And what happens next is what really killed the discernment. The next phase is what tracked, hunted down, and finished off the last remaining discernment. 

See, community gets built around the aggression. It’s a false community because it is closed-hearted, rather than open-hearted - which is what is necessary for real community. But it resembles connection. In its twisted way, this aggression builds twisted community which fills the need for connection - one of the most basic human needs. 

Thus the closed human heart finds a false sense of community with other closed hearts. It’s not real connection, but it beats the free-floating anxiety.

These four factors led into each other and combined to close the human heart. Almost permanently. 

And just like that, the habitat necessary for discernment was gone, and discernment went extinct.

With a lack of discernment, other more invasive species moved in, destroying the closed hearts. These are:

Judgement: Closed hearts see in black/white, right/wrong, for/against, either/or. There is no grey, no colour, and no middle/higher ground.

Gullibility: Information that supports and bolsters aggression towards the object of anxiety is absorbed blindly - robotically. 

Hostility: Any other information is rejected, squashed, and eradicated. There is no way to access the closed heart as it is so heavily armoured. 

Exclusiveness: other people who have the same object of anxiety are accepted and welcomed while other people are unwelcome, unacceptable, and unworthy. 

So, discernment is extinct. But can we bring it back? Can we bring back wisdom, tact, maturity, clarity, and critical thinking?

The dodo, the Tasmanian tiger, the passenger pigeon, and the wooly mammoth, might only be found in dusty old books, but I refuse to believe that discernment is gone for good. 

Unlike the other extinct species, discernment can return. Every human heart that re-opens makes room for discernment to settle again. 

Each human heart that finds inner peace provides a space for discernment to make its home.

Every human heart that brings meaning and significance to life nourishes discernment.

Every human heart that seeks true connection, vulnerability, intimacy, relationship, and real community allows the discernment to grow and multiply.

Discernment may be extinct, but it can make a comeback within my heart and yours. 

Do you see judgement, gullibility, hostility, and exclusiveness in others? Where are those three fingers pointing back? Where do you have judgement, gullibility, hostility, and exclusiveness?

Around what issue is your heart closed, effectively killing discernment? 

How can you re-open your heart to provide a habitat for discernment to thrive once again?

What would be different for you if discernment could live in your heart once again?

Here’s to Conquering Stress.

With heart,

The Stress Experts

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