Just Because You Can Think, It Doesn’t Mean You Always Should
Our species was optimistically named Homo Sapiens, meaning wise human.
Our wisdom is debatable, but thinking is clearly a characteristic of
our species. Some of our thinking is wise. Some is otherwise. We think
as a way of being in the world. Other species are more inclined to be without all the analysis.
the defenses and weapons inherited by most other animals, our species
has gotten along by using our wits. This strategy has worked
marvelously well in increasing our numbers. It has also become
something like an addiction. Unless we are taught how, we tend not to
have the ability to reason, and that comes in handy. Reason enables us
to figure things out. Think of Socrates and Plato—superstars in
the realm of reason. When you read their thoughts, you may have the
thought, “These guys could really think!” Their rational
capacity puts most of us to shame. Still, from the vantage point of the
21st century, we can assess their thoughts and be pretty sure that they
got some things wrong. Sometimes the foundation upon which a beautiful
philosophical premise was built was flawed. The capacity to reason is a
beautiful thing, and it is not the only valid use of the mind.
our society would be better off if we paid more attention to reason. It
is a necessary tool, like a plow is a tool. Farmers use a plow to grow
food. Thank goodness that they do. Or perhaps, thank reason that has
allowed farmers to improve plows over the millennia. Farmers do at
some point stop plowing. After sowing the seed, they no longer plow.
Sometime it is good to set aside the thinking faculty too. Let the
plant grow. Let the mind settle.
we pause from the habitual judging/criticizing, planning/worrying,
remembering/regretting that makes up much of our thinking, we can shift
into a state beyond correct and incorrect. It breaks us free from the
fear, anger and shame based emotions. A mind uncluttered with
preconceptions is open to clear perception and responsiveness. We may
move from thinking to knowing, from reasoning to wisdom.
worry, you won’t stop thinking. You may take a break from it, but
you will never stop the habit for long. It is what we do. Sometimes,
leave off the thinking. Just be for awhile. Observe that you
have been thinking and let it go. Allow your mind to settle down. Pick
somewhere to place your attention, your breath for instance, and
remember to bring it back there when it drifts off. Or don’t try
to hold your attention anywhere in particular. Just open your senses to
whatever comes and practice not holding on to any particular
perception/thought. Be without judging or planning. Thoughts will arise, but observe them without holding on to them or trying to link them together.
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© 2009 Tom Barrett