The Lost Art of Thinking

(Submitted by The Art of Living Team)

Auguste Rodin's classic statue 'The Thinker' is one of my favourites. I find it hard to look at without being profoundly moved to a kind of reverence for this type of deep thinking. Perhaps, because it's so uncommon. Having thoughts does not constitute thinking. We all have thoughts. We all have opinions and beliefs; usually lots of them.

William James once wrote, "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely re-arranging their prejudices." Just because there's mental activity going on in our minds doesn't mean we're thinking.

Bob Proctor also wrote, "Thinking is the highest function of which a human being is capable." He goes on to say that what passes for thinking for most people is really just the faculty of memory, playing old movies and rehashing past events. Clearly, this is not what Rodin's great work of art depicts.

Thinking is hard work. Maybe that's why so few people do it. Edison went even further: "There is no expedient to which a man will go to avoid the real labour of thinking," and Emerson said, "What is the hardest task in the world? To think."

Why don't we think more? I believe one reason is that we're so busy doing, that we don't have time to conceive, cogitate and consider. We're used to being entertained. We're bombarded with information. It comes at us so fast that we have little time to reflect on much, if any, of it.

How to think
From TV commentators to politicians, we're told what to think, when what we really need to know is how to think. We've become accustomed to quick answers and easy solutions. But the problems and challenges of our lives are not easy and they're not simple. They require thoughtful consideration.

I love to read, but I'm convinced that the greatest value in reading is not the information, but rather what we think about while we read.

The objective is not to fill our minds with information, but to stimulate our minds to think and to ponder. The value of the book is increased a thousand-fold if we lay it down occasionally and contemplate what we've read and think about what it means and how and why it might apply to us.

We need to think, and to think carefully about the choices and direction of our lives. The most precious resource we have is our time. Our lives are the sum total of what we do with that time. It's worth spending more of it thinking.

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