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Mike RobinsonWhat works better: emotion or logic? Revelation or rationality? Intuition or algorithms?

I started thinking seriously about these different ways of living in the world after reading Catherine Mayers’ new book, Charles: the Heart of a King. Her painstakingly detailed biography about the heir to the throne of the House of Windsor reveals a whimsical prince, much more dependent on revelation and intuition than deductive reasoning and cold logic. His decision style is based upon his enthusiasms, but strangely seems to lead to logical results.

Much of the book describes the dozens of not-for-profit organizations the prince has ‘enthusiastically’ created, almost all of which target the amelioration of vexing rural and urban problems in Great Britain. These include promoting ‘biomimetic’ architecture (starting with his 1983 “monstrous carbuncle” speech), the public/private production of organic vegetables (via a joint venture now called Waitrose Duchy Organic), and programs targeting the employment of inner city youth (which have actually resulted in dozens of successful small business startups).

What is notable about all of this work is that it is really driven by Prince Charles’ cultivation of his intuition about social change. And according to Mayers, much of what Charles has created actually works, and inspires others in the same direction.

One cannot help but note that all of this flies in the face of our western society’s dominant belief in the primacy of rational thought and deductive logic.

Rational, mathematical algorithms are now so trusted, individuals use them to find their ideal statistical love-mates. The Vancouver Sun recently reported the new half- billionaire status of a Vancouver-based matchmaking site entrepreneur who started life as a farm boy in the Peace River district. His creation, Plenty of Fish is now a global go-to site for those seeking a partner, and at times true love.

While I understand the appeal of logic in finding perfect love, I am at the same time a devoted advocate of simply falling in love. My best counter-argument is that it worked for me. Thirty-eight years later, I am still in love. This must prove something about revelation, intuition and trusting your own judgement.

While admittedly highly anecdotal and selective (thought processes strongly endorsed by HRH), many of us have friends and associates who have ‘looked for love in all the wrong algorithmic places’ and had no luck. We have heard stories of toughing out horrific computer matchmaking dates in bars and inexpensive restaurants, because one party sensed right from the start that Mr. or Ms. Right was Mr. or Ms. Wrong.

Once that feeling becomes dominant, it’s just a matter of time before prudence demands an exit. Some people now ‘pull the pin’ and exit immediately upon taking a first impression, if it’s the wrong impression.

Last week, I experienced yet another form of the logic/intuition dilemma: the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Logically I fear death because I want to live. And, logically, a festival premised on not fearing death, but embracing it, even loving it, seems absurd.

How then do you explain the entire community coming out every Nov. 2 in San Miguel de Allende to clean and polish ancestors’ graves; to decorate them with garlands of marigolds; and to set out guiding candles, glasses of water, and favourite plates of food to welcome home the dead for an annual special evening reunion?

How can thousands of people come out of their homes every year for one special night to celebrate with the departed? Why do little boys and girls happily enter the cemetery gates, hand-in-hand with their grandmothers, to dance with dead grandfathers? Why do mothers sit down on their childrens’ graves, and talk lovingly with their babies who died in childbirth? How can husbands meet again with their dead wives? Last week, I lived in a community where this happens.

On the bright, sunny morning of Nov. 3, I walked amidst the flower-strewn graves of the San Miguel de Allende public cemetery and broke down in tears. Most of the families had left. But a strong spiritual presence and sense of community remained. I hope to embrace this spirit from now on, and share it with the dead of my family.

Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery. He is currently President of the Board of Directors of  the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. In 2004 he became a Member of the Order of Canada.

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