What Thinks Can We All Think Up?

 

John_Everett_Millais_-_Pensive

‘Pensive.’ Millais.

‘Think left and think right and think low and think high.
Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!’

(Dr Seuss, Oh The Things You Can Think )

“What are you writing about?” I’m asked , often.

My reply is invariably brief and a little cautious:

“Thinking. I’m writing about thinking.”

Silence. A look of puzzlement on the other’s face. Then, every time, a change of expression and a look of total understanding. Followed by an explanation of their ideas of what I’m writing about thinking.

Except I am not. Thus far, hardly anyone has got it, my way of thinking about thinking . Everyone, of course, answers from their own frame of reference. The thing is, none of their answers is ‘wrong’. They are all correct. For them.

Dr Seuss’s joyful rhyme above may be addressed to children, yet it captures perfectly the breadth of meaning in terms of the highly complex notion of thinking. It is this complexity that led me to want to write about thinking; the fact that there is so much to discover and to contemplate. In addition, this feels a very timely subject to explore, given that, in contemporary culture, there seems to be little space for real thinking.

Here’s how the idea developed. As I reflected on my career after I retired and, especially, on my own experience of psychotherapy, I realised that what I could now do was to think much more clearly. After years of focussing on feelings, I really had time to think about thinking. I could reap the benefits of years of work, training and experience to concentrate on this fascinating subject. I immersed myself in discovering and writing about thinking over several years.

Now, my intention in this blog is to present and share this work, reaching across professional disciplines, pooling resources, collecting ideas on thinking of those in the know and putting them together with my own thoughts.

This is not going to be a definitive guide to thinking. There are many such works, proclaiming the way to think, telling us how we should manage our lives. They are often delivered in a dogmatic and prescriptive style.

I certainly do not presume to have any answers. What my blog will offer instead is a thought-provoking contrast to the quick-fix, superficial, answer-rich society in which we find ourselves. This is a discourse on thinking about thinking that is an invitation to pause and contemplate, to stimulate new thoughts about thinking, but not in an all-inclusive, absolute way.

What is, I think, more useful, is a curious, open, questioning approach, one that empowers the reader, rather than an inflexible presentation of unequivocal ‘truths.’

A comprehensive enquiry into the whole area of thinking is beyond the capacity and limitations of any one specialism. Thus I will initiate a necessary pooling of resources, a gathering together of knowledge from different areas of expertise. The aim is to create an encounter, a bringing together, perhaps sometimes a discordant jarring of incompatibilities, an aggravation of thoughts and ideas about thinking that will ultimately produce an exceptionally distinct and original outcome.

Why is it now more important than ever to think about thinking? These are exciting times for thinking; new technologies are dramatically changing our world. At the same time, however, the internet, whilst enormously useful and helpful, can be a great obstruction to the thinking process. It distracts us from listening and attending to others, from focussing on our internal world, from being mindful and giving attention to our thinking.

How can we digitally detox, turning down the noise in our technology-driven life? How can we take back control of our lives again, given the addictive power of the internet for many us? How can we quieten things down so that we can ‘stand and stare,’ and re-connect with our thoughts?

Many would regard our society as sick, with people disconnected from self and other, addicted to the internet and, perhaps hardly aware of its sickness:

‘ It is no measure of good health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.’

(J. Krishnamurti )

To add to this state of dis-ease, in a global context, our world is changing dramatically, becoming precarious and uncertain.

Zygmunt Bauman, in his book  Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty,  sees this as an insecure age, when all ‘social forms’ about us seem uncertain and short-term, when ‘interhuman bonds….become increasingly frail and admitted to be temporary.’  It is now more than ever, in this time of intense global flux, that we need to examine what is happening to our ways of thinking.

In my blog there will be space to face uncertainties and to decelerate our thinking, allowing for reflection and for a quiet meditative journey into the deeper reaches of our thinking selves. In the words of Pico Iyer, in his fascinating book The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere:

‘In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow.
In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.
And in an age of constant movement nothing is more urgent than sitting still.’

 

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