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Susan Smalley, Ph.D. Headshot

Appraising Our Modes of Inquiry

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When I blogged recently about soul mates, I was likened to Dear Abbey or a housewife. I hadn't realized that my judgements ran so deep. As a scientist and academic, I realized I 'prided' myself on being seen as someone who holds rational thought and knowledge obtained through such a method as a religious zealot might hold their religious beliefs - so tightly that to think otherwise is fodder for ridicule. And how prejudiced was I to see the symbols of Dear Abbey and a housewife as reflections of this ridicule. My mother was a housewife. She perhaps contributed more to society than most working intellectuals by raising three daughters who all care about the world, the importance of family, and who believe in inquiry to understand the world. She was an unknown voice - a housewife - a Dear Abbey in how she helped others around her, in her community, her family, her children's schools and local organizations.

At her memorial service, many new friends made in her late 60s spoke of a woman who loved life, who loved friends and family, and who made a difference by connecting to those around her. Yet she did not work in politics or science, write or teach, or belong to the intellectual elite.

I remember meeting a taxi driver once when leaving a national meeting of child psychiatrists who seemed to know more about how to solve the world's mental health crisis than the 3 day conference I had just left. His message was simple - sort of like my mothers - be kind, help one another, pay attention to your family and community. As my rational mind explores the inner workings of the brain and behavior through the study of genetics, I'm becoming more and more convinced that we must, as a society, work to bring into balance both the rational and intuitive mind - for the rational zealot that may mean to attend to the small, to the intuitive mind - to appreciate what Dear Abbey and a housewife reflect - kindness, caring for each other, deep listening, and inner inquiry. For the intuitive zealot (those making decisions by 'gut instinct' alone), it means bringing reason to the forefront.