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Higher Intelligence and the Decisive Point

In conversation with my good friend Richard Mohun he drew my attention to the idea of the Decisive Point. Popularised by Clauswitz the military strategist and writer, the Decisive Point is the place and time in a battle where you should strike with all your force at the right moment. It's rather like the skill of the diamond cutter, who may spend weeks looking at a diamond deciding the Decisive Point to strike with his hammer. Get it wrong and you have a neat pile of diamond dust, get it right and you have a well cut diamond.

When descending rapids each rapid has a way through it- a decisive point you have to hit at the right time and place. Get it wrong and you capsize.

Battles, rivers, diamonds- what about everyday life? Well we get better, or should do, at knowing when to deploy our energies and how much of them to deploy. You learn when to rest and when to work full on- something I didn't discover until I studied aikido full time.

One can look for the decisive point in any enterprise. There may not be only one, but looking at least heightens the awareness that life is not static and linear but dynamic and strangely curved. As Nelson said, "You can't plan a fight. But you can plan to fight." And during that fight you need to spot the breakthrough moment, the decisive point...back to fighting again, probably because a battle resembles any enterprise, but speeded up and more interesting. I'll try and think of something more pacific- writing a book. For years I never managed to get past a few chapters- until I realised, hardly in a concious way, that the decisive point was not writing when you had time to write, or something to 'communicate' but actually setting aside large amounts of time with nothing else competing for your attention over a long enough period that a book became almost inevitable.

On another tack learning any physical skill that isn't entirely obvious- be it making fire with a bow drill or climbing a rope - involves identifying the decisive point when an unusual effort of co-ordination must be made. If you miss this, then it doesn't matter how heroic the rest of the effort is.

So another candidate for higher intelligence is the ability to spot and act upon the decisive point. I think I'll start looking for them.

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