Tuesday, December 29, 2015

More on Janusian Thinking and Buddhism

When I first became aware of Janusian thinking and the Janusian process, it resonated with my sensibilities. Janusian thinking involves holding two contradictory, co-existing ideas in one's mind at the same time, for the purpose of creative problem-solving. As a Buddhist, I was comfortable with the idea that something could be and "not be" at the same time.

I relished the "30,000-foot-view" similarities between Janusian thinking and Buddhism. For example, both involve "meditating" on the relationships between the opposites. Both also serve to expand the mind. Yet the two are very different in some ways, too. For example, Janusian thinking is a tool which is employed for the process of coming out the other side with a workable solution. Buddhism, on the other hand, doesn't necessarily crave that solution: it can often rest peacefully with the incompatibility.

Moreover, in Buddhism, striving to reconcile the conflicts in life is a source of suffering. The way to alleviate that suffering is to essentially behave decently, cultivate discipline in one's thoughts and actions, and practice mindfulness and meditation. Janusian thinking, on the other hand, involves primarily thinking one's way through to the other side and the solutions reached may conflict with a Buddhist lifestyle. (For example, figuring out how to build a better bomb.)

While there are interesting parallels between Buddhism and Janusian thought, there are also a number of meaningful differences. This creates the possibility of a "Meta-Janusian process", where one can hold the contradictory aspects of Buddhism and Janusian thought in one's mind at the same time, for the purpose of achieving a creative result. I would imagine that such a hybrid would have the advantage of leading to loving, kind solutions. On the other hand, it would likely also have the disadvantage of limiting the universe of possible resolutions, perhaps stifling overall creativity. Adding mindfulness to the Janusian process is an intriguing prospect and I hope it is one that academics will further explore someday.

- Lynne Guimond Sabean


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