I’ve been writing this blog for close to seven years now over which time I’ve plowed through various personal rough patches around work, romance, fatherhood, friendship and politics.

I aim to write theoretical or general observations from a balanced perspective so when I’m in the throes of say, a breakup, it might be wise for me to steer clear of generalizing about the nature of breakups. There’s a high risk I won’t be able to write as a neutral observer would, and even if I could, disclosing that I’m in the throes might make readers suspicious of my ability to stay neutral:

“You’re going through a breakup and pretending you can say anything neutral about the nature of romance? Buddy, you’re in no position to talk.”

Attempting to talk neutrally when you’re in no position to talk is an activity I’ll call Performance Mind-Minding, an activity with a deep literary history and far reaching implications for the fate of the planet.

With Performance Mind-Minding, you try to stay balanced while you’re in the throes of heavy emotional influences. Listeners keep a keen ear open for signs of bias. Performance Mind-minding is like performance surfing or sailing. Under the influence of powerful waves and gusts you try to stay balanced while others watch.

We are creatures with strong emotions and modest aptitude and appetite for balanced interpretation and analysis. We are natural born rationalizers, likely to interpret the preferable as true, the hopeful as accurate. We seek God’s endorsement and/or scientific “proof” to support and affirm our personal wishes and desires. If there’s one thing we’re bad at, it’s staying neutral in the throes.

And it’s the one thing we had better get good at fast. Man-made disasters and man-made failures to respond to natural disasters invariably trace to this tendency to claim neutrality when we’re actually driven by strong desires. I don’t worry about people thinking too much, but about people claiming they’re thinking when they’re really mostly feeling, the dictator who claims he must stay in power because he’s only thinking of his people, the climate crisis denier who claims he is only being prudently cautious in assessing the situation, or the recently-dumped writer, blogging about romance who claims that it’s easy to leave one’s bias at the door and speak neutrally and spin-free.

Performance Mind-Minding, like performance surfing or sailing is a dogged attempt to stay balanced done in humble acknowledgment of the waves and gusts and the imbalance they cause. Its literary roots are in all those first-person narrative novels and memoirs that put readers in a position to listen and thus to hone a keen ear for self-serving bias, self-deception and failures of introspection.

Like performance surfing or sailing, Performance Mind-Minding can be a beautiful thing. William James described philosophy as “A peculiarly stubborn attempt to think clearly.” He didn’t claim philosophy is clear thinking. It’s a stubborn attempt because the humbling waves and gusts are so strong they’ll topple us way more often than not. But to watch someone resist the distortions and ride out a ways toward clearer thought is exhilarating, a most exquisite performance, a defiance of our natural nature in the service of our better nature.

High-performance mind-minders can keep romance alive in the throes of a bad breakup and skepticism alive in the throes of a passionate love affair. Introspecting, they anticipate the effects of the waves and lean against them, reminding themselves of what may be most difficult to hear in the throes.

There’s an art to being in the audience for performance mind-minding, a connoisseurship that takes discipline and cultivation lest we merely dismiss as biased failures those performances that don’t affirm our personal biases, and praise as lucidity itself those performances that do. These days, with self-declared “no-spin zones” spinning aggressively those generalizations that affirm personal biases, it’s a connoisseurship we need more than ever.

The alternative to Performance Mind-minding is disqualifying people from generalizing about sensitive subjects, permitting them only to report their particulars and biases, talking, for example during a breakup, only about what happened and how sad they are.

That approach can’t work. There are now topics that affect us all personally, topics like climate crisis about which no one can claim to be without bias but about which we must get better at talking clearly.

I say surf’s up.