The Lost Art of Thinking
By Michael Angier
Auguste Rodin's classic statue "The Thinker" is one of my
favourites. It's hard to look at it (or one of its many replicas) without
being moved by it. The innocent display of someone deeply in thought
causes most of us to ponder a bit ourselves. Why is this image so
captivating? What's he thinking about?
Perhaps we have such reverence for this kind of deep thinking 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 rearranging their prejudices." Just
because there's mental activity going on in our minds doesn't mean we're
Bob Proctor, in his book "You Were Born Rich", writes,
"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
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, "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 of it, if any at
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
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 (that's
why what we choose to read is so important).
The objective is not to fill our minds with information, but to
stimulate our mind 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.
Clarity is power. And clarity comes from thinking.
We need to think, and 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. Isn't it worth spending
more of it thinking?
Think about it.
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