1st February 2020

My schoolboy nickname was ‘prof’. Regrettably not due to some observable brilliance on my part, but rather as a somewhat ironic shortening of  prophet, a reference to both my insistence on performing an approximation of deductive reasoning at the drop of a hat and an irritating ability to foresee and proclaim in biblical tones the dire consequences to follow the smallest seeming of infraction.

My fascination with logical deduction stemmed from my early absorption of the tales of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of that ultimate exponent of the art, the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Like many another my imagination was captured by not only the substance of the stories, the elegance of the verbalizations, but the real relationship betwixt individual behavior and an intellectually decipherable pattern, that with the appropriate education, training and imagination, a practitioner might deduce the one from the other without reference to exterior data.

My skills in performing this seeming legerdemain were infinitesimal in comparison to Doyle’s literary creation but with careful application I was still capable of creating bafflement and incredulity amongst my peers.

I made no particular effort to develop these skills knowingly, yet quite miraculously the ability seemed to have increase exponentially. I found my ability to read situations, emotions, motives and conclusions a great attractant to others, and also an extraordinary useful tool for misdirection, subtle influence and of course outright manipulation.

Being an individual easily swayed and entrapped emotionally I always found any desire on my part to manipulate wholly unpalatable. However I must admit in all honesty and with a heavy heart that the nefarious skill did expose itself on occasion, almost invariably resulting in unfortunate and personally painful consequence. I should of course have dissected Doyle’s narratives with more clarity. He quite clearly indicates the dangers of negative deductive reasoning in the case of Professor Moriarty, and effeteness in the example of Mycroft Holmes.

Deductive reasoning can easily be misconstrued by the unwary as empathy but understanding the cause and effect of something does not necessarily indicate compassion, or sympathy. The process of mental reasoning is largely instinctive, unconscious, might take an hour or a moment and once deliberated seldom debatable. It is neither caring or emotional, instead cold and calculating.

Both empathy and deduction depend on a commonality in experience, emotive depth and positional alignment. The observer must have personal experience of any feeling, action, impulse, before they can recognize the symptoms in another.  Neither empathy, understanding or deductive reasoning can be gleaned from the pages of a book or from the meandering words of an outside influencer, whether teacher, guru, prophet or counselor. The instinctive reader of life must have tasted firsthand, dove headfirst into the murky waters at the deep end of the pool, not timidly stood starling from the edge, or studiously paddled in the unthreatening shallows.

For a myriad of reasons my path from early adolescence was one of uncompromising freedom. A choice to live, to taste, enjoy, succeed or fail, constantly moving forward, all without consideration of consequence. This appears an utterly selfish decision, except no emphasis was placed upon attaining power, control, success, wealth or even happiness and contentment. The decision might be construed cowardly, the avoidance of responsibility. Yet every day was and continues to be spent upon ‘Conan’s tree of Woe’.

To understand pain you must endure torture. To know the future you must cast off the past.

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