Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Think Therefor I Am

Spend more time thinking and less talking

Have you ever had someone come up to you about something or other with the question: “What’d you think about this?” Be careful.

Such a question has you facing a sticky situation and being put to the test --- the quandary of thinking as in the old admonition to “stop and think.”

“Some people get lost in thought because it's such unfamiliar territory” (G. Behn). Or as Winnie the Pooh said: “Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”

The famous Dane (not Victor Borge), Soren Kierkegaaard said: “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”

A huge amount of Kierkegaard’s ideas go way over my head and make little sense to me. But I understand him here. He is right when he complains that the art of thought is seldom used.

Take a look at our supreme leaders (Washington politicians impersonating statesmen), who were duly elected to see that government business runs like clockwork. Not a cuckoo clock as it often appears. If any of our Washington warriors ever gave much thought to the people and country, it would be like a miracle from heaven.

Someone should compile and publish what our elected “servants” thoughtless say. The antics on the floor of the House and Senate reveals how little they think before they speak. (See C-Span, which shows everything but the empty seats. You can always catch some of the more outlandish, irritatingly silly and bizarre blurbs on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central.)

Rex Stout (author of Nero Wolfe mysteries) edited just that kind of book in the 1930s. He recorded the actual stupid remarks made on the floor of the House and Senate. Stout’s book is “The Illustrious Dunderheads.” (Some library may have a copy. This classic’s prices begin at $70.)

American poet Archibald Macleish urged us to think for ourselves: “The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.”

The actual act of thinking has meant trouble for many who broke from the herd to think for themselves. Real thinking can turn into a dangerous sport, but it is needful if anything is to be accomplished in our lives or in the nation’s capital. Example: Think more before voting. Think about oversight.

Thinking is what got men like Robert Kennedy and his brother John killed. Thinking was the culprit for most of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s troubles.

Voltaire (pen name of Francois Marie Arouet), a seventeenth century French satirist author, put a lot of stock in the act of thinking. He once said: “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”

To think, to actually think, is not as easy as you might think. Yet thinking remains as rare as purple hen’s teeth. A local philosopher parsed Rene Descartes’ dictum “I Think Therefore I Am” to simply mean our real selves come out when we think more and talk less.



Thomas A. Wiebe said...

Well said. I thought you might appreciate this excerpt from Bierce's Devil's Dictionary:

Cartesian, adj. Relating to Descartes, a famous philosopher, author of the celebrated dictum, Cogito ergo sum — whereby he was pleased to suppose he demonstrated the reality of human existence. The dictum might be improved, however, thus: Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum — "I think that I think, therefore I think that I am;" as close an approach to certainty as any philosopher has yet made.

Britt Towery said...

I had little idea where I was going when I wrote about "thinking." The improved dictum sees to be the best one.