Data and the Death of Intuition

by Michael Braunstein

Driving west in Omaha along Pacific Street near Elmwood Park on a beautiful autumn afternoon is when I felt it. I needed a snack. Not to worry. Jenny was right next to me in the car and just the day before I had her stash a couple Halloween-size Snickers treats in her purse.

“Hey, can I have one of those Snickers from your purse,” I asked. Hesitation. Uh oh. Hesitation isn’t good.

“Don’t be angry,” Jenny said. “But I gave those away yesterday.”

Now I hesitated. Then Jenny explained. “I came out of the Hy-Vee on Center and at the corner bus stop were two young girls crying. Of course, I had to go see. A passing bus had kicked up a rock and one girl had a small laceration on her forehead and it was bleeding; not bad but you know how vascular that area is.”

At this point I should note that Jenny was a nurse; had studied diligently to earn an advanced degree. She continued.

“Well, I took a Kleenex from my purse and applied pressure but she was crying so hard and so upset it didn’t stop right away. And both girls were crying. I reached in my purse to get another Kleenex and saw the Snickers. I just grabbed it and gave it to her, saying, ‘Here, honey.’ You know, just to distract her.

“Well, of course she calmed down at that and her blood pressure lowered and the bleeding slowed, then stopped. And her friend stopped crying a little, too. I gave her the other Snickers. Are you mad I gave them away?”

“Mad!” I said. “Are you kidding? That is the purest example of inspiration that I’ve heard in a long time. Intuition, inspiration, Holy Spirit — call it what you will — came in that brief moment you reached into your purse with an open and willing mind and you grabbed a candy bar at the right time and it was the solution. All the intellectual, academic training in nursing school was bypassed by a moment of intuition. Because tell me exactly what medical text or first aid handbook says, ‘When encountering crying, bleeding schoolgirls at a bus bench, be sure to give them a Snickers bar to stop the bleeding’, eh?

“All of the intellectual, science-based notions held no sway over the brilliance of intuitively using a Snickers bar for healing. Awesome job.”

Jenny got it. She knows about that kind of stuff.

“Know thyself.” Over 2400 years ago, the builders of the ancient Greek Temple of Delphi inscribed three maxims over the portal. The prime law was, “Know thyself.” How could it not be the prime law? What is more important than to know who you are, how you feel, what is your purpose? No one, no book, no smartwatch can teach you. Who else can know those things other than self? (1)

Knowing self is not an intellectual endeavor. If it were and could be successfully done academically, don’t you think there would be a College of Self Knowledge at major universities alongside the College of Business Administration, College of Structural Engineering or even the College of Medicine? And do not even attempt to utter that studies in all those other fields facilitate self knowledge.

Knowing thyself does not require an advanced degree. If it did, self-knowledge would be beyond the reach of billions of humans who have exactly zero access to formal education; the billions farming in China or India or the goat herders of the African bush. But fact is, each of us is capable of truly knowing ourself.

Each human is fully capable of looking within, of contemplating without outside information, in order to know oneself. Indeed, the very word intuition is derived from the Latin root intueri which means to look, to contemplate, immediate cognition. And intuition is available to all humans. It literally means to know directly without any dependence on reasoning, intellect or data. There are times when knowledge comes seemingly unbidden, provided without effort.

Data as the devil. But we now live in a world that is driven by an obsession with data. Empirical data is the death of our connection with inspirational intuition. As a modern species, humans rely more on data than on knowledge. That is wrong. Technology is the insulation that keeps us from connecting with feeling, nature and reality. It’s notable that one product of the data industry is known as virtual reality. That’s because it’s not real reality.

Technology and its excreta, data, have become the barrier between our innate knowing and our awareness of that knowing. There are dozens of obvious areas where humans have become less human and more data-bots. We have come to ignore or fail to recognize tell-tales and instead we rely on data that is in fact, constantly changing and too often contradicts itself over time.

For example, instead of continuing to hone the natural ability to sense oncoming weather, we look at a smartphone. And before readers scream “science denier!” I would ask one to tell me how accurate weather forecasts really are. Right.

With the acceptance of the smart watch, we are growing increasingly out of touch with our own bodies. We rely on data on a little screen to tell us about how our bodies feel. And we have dumbed down so far that we actually believe that a small window of data can possibly hold the whole scenario.

The first law at the Temple of Delphi was “Know thyself.” It wasn’t, and never will be, “Know thy watch.” Just keep a Snickers in your pocket for when that battery runs out. You’ll need it.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit

(1) The three portal maxims at Delphi:  1. Know thyself; 2. Nothing in excess; 3. Surety brings ruin. There are 147 other maxims inscribed inside but those three are key.

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