“Follow your heart, your intuition, let them lead you in the right direction,” sang Jewel  on the chorus to her top 40 hit from her dance pop “sellout” album 0304 that ended up going only gold and failed to reverse her commercial slide, which prompted her to repudiate the move in her next album and imply that her heart and intuition had not led her in the right direction. For me, though, the period of “This Way” and “0304” is my favorite era of Jewel songs, when she crafted hooky and unusual pop albums. Intuition sparkles in large part due to a sweet accordion part and its seeming self-awareness and a high degree of irony approaching the level of self-parody, a style I greatly appreciate in music . If the album failed to revive Jewel’s commercial fortunes and threatened the reputation of the Alaskan folk-rock singer, it at least showed she had a sense of humor and sly sense of wit and irony, and the determination to subvert the very process of turning her into a stereotypically shallow pop songstress. I may be one of only a few people who appreciated the effort, but I hope my appreciation counts for something.
For those of us who belong to the religious tradition that I do, the call that Jewel made in “Intuition” to follow her heart and intuition as her guides to life would bring to mind one particular biblical passage. Indeed, a great many of my readers have likely already thought of this passage for themselves before I quote it, Jeremiah 17:9-10, which says: ““The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” This passage is to me quoted so often as to be almost a cliche, but a large part of the reason for that is that it serves as a reminder that flawed human beings cannot trust their heart and intuition to lead them in the right direction. It is a striking irony of our own time, given the failures in relationships and institutions that we know so well in our own experience, that we trust ourselves and do not trust God. Despite all evidence to the contrary, we trust our hearts over and over again, even if they lead us continually into disaster and despair.
I spend a great deal of my time at work trying to hone my intuition when it comes to data. As a subject matter expert concerning our internal data, I am frequently called upon to solve interesting problems. For example, in addition to my fairly mundane tasks, within the past few days I have helped coworkers uncover some flaws in a report done by someone else that appears to have an obsolete filter that is missing a substantial amount of data, discovered that a query was organized in numerical and not state order and had an incorrect number for Oklahoma’s SoonerCare. I spend a great deal of time pondering patterns, and when something doesn’t fit the pattern, I tend to be rather irritated about it, to the point where I feel somewhat compelled to research it and figure it out. This tendency tends to be endearing to those of my coworkers who appreciate my dogged tenacity and good eye when it comes to data and the patterns in them, and at least as far as understanding numerical or historical patterns goes, I would say that my mind is at least reasonably trustworthy when it comes to its intuition.
Unfortunately, there are some areas in my life where my intuition is not sound. As good as I am at spotting patterns in data and knowing when something is off and what to do about it, the same tendency escapes me when I deal with people. This is especially true if there are feelings involved, where my mind is seeking as impartially as possible to understand what others are doing while my heart is hoping, sometimes against hope, that my own longings and interest are returned by those whose behavior is coming under such intense observation and analysis. There are some people, no doubt, who likely find the observation and analysis to be somewhat unnerving. And it does scarcely any more benefit to me, as my inability to make sense of others and fulfill my own intense longings often drives me deep into despair and gloominess. I would gladly leave having to wrestle with intuition and the understanding of the complicated motives of other people to someone else who was more skilled and less awkward at it than I was, but no one has seemed to want that role in my life.
No doubt others may understand my own miseries in this particular area of my life. No doubt others may share their own stories. There is, perhaps unsurprisingly, an entire area of research that seeks to find the different combinations of numbers that can sum up to the same x in a given context. We all do the same thing when we try to extrapolate from the observable data we have of our interactions with others what people really think and feel. Sometimes people are kind enough to tell us, but sometimes they do not and the process of guessing can be immensely hazardous. As human beings are vastly more complicated than quantitative data, and as we are often unaware of ourselves and thus unable to communicate what we do not know to others whether we would wish to or not, it is little wonder that we misunderstand people so often and so disastrously. If this does not make us feel any less despairing of our prospects for happiness and success in matters of the heart, it does at least place our failure in context, not that it makes us feel any better about it.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: