Thinking about thinking

Following on from my last post, I can see the necessity of defining what I mean by “thinking”. Here’s a link to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to examine what the experts say. If you click on that link, you’ll find that they have over 20 different entries for what think means, in my view far too many to work with. The definition that I like and that I’ll be working with is this one:

1ato exercise the powers of judgment, conception, or inference REASON

I’ll push that definition out a bit to include Critical Thinking, a subject that merits its own website as you will see if you click on that link.

I have always prided myself on being a good thinker and cluey about what went on in the world. Hey, I was a university graduate and for years worked for IBM, a company with the slogan Think. Sure, there were lots of things that I didn’t know, but I was sure that I knew how to think, knew which way the wind was blowing. But as the decades passed and I became more and more interested in thinking about thinking, I was hit with some disturbing thoughts.

Back in the day as a working stiff, I spent most of my time writing computer programs. I was excellent at sitting down with someone, listening to a problem that they had, conceiving of a computer system that would solve that problem and then writing the programs that delivered the solution that they were looking for. Every step of that process required logical thinking. One wrong instruction in my programming and I would deliver garbage rather than solution.

As I sit here now and contemplate other professions, I see similar logic happening. Whether it’s having my car tuned or my teeth looked after, rational thought is unfolding. Building a bridge, baking a cake, composing a melody, driving to work, planning a holiday abroad, meeting up with friends after work for a drink. Everything we do takes correct thinking to make it happen. I get the pub wrong for meeting up with friends for drinks and I’m sitting alone wondering what happened.

None of that is rocket science. Yet all of that requires thinking about what we want to have happen and then doing the correct things to bring it about. We must exercise our powers of reason.

As I began thinking about this blog post, I looked back over my 16 years in public school and university and couldn’t think of a single course that I took that had as its purpose to teach us to reason, to think rationally. Why weren’t we taught reason and critical thinking along with reading, writing and arithmetic? Put more poetically, why weren’t we taught our four R’s instead of merely three? Reading, writing, arithmetic and reason!

One consequence of thinking rationally is that we begin to make connections. Actions have consequences and we begin to see how A can lead to B. We begin to question everything. Even without being taught formal reason and logic, kids begin to draw conclusions from their lessons.  I know that I began questioning everything at an early age and I was lucky that my questions were handled respectfully. But sadly too many of us are rebuked when we ask uncomfortable questions and we learn to stop questioning. Today, making any challenge of statements that are given to us by the authorities can see us slapped down as spreaders of misinformation. Review what happened to Socrates or what is happening now to Julian Assange or Edward Snowden.

It’s my desire to live in a world built on rationality, one that does not fear questions but welcomes them. When I think about building such a world, I conclude that it’s an error in logic to attempt such building by directly taking on those who rule. They are too firmly entrenched and will do what it takes to stay there. We will build A World of Honour from the bottom up, not top down.

So how can we use our beautiful thinking brains to flourish in this world?

I invite you, dear reader, to take on building yourself a life that has you come alive. In doing so, you will be joining me in my quest. In doing so, we will change our world one person at a time. Perhaps there is no other way to do it.

I invite to you take way from our visit together these three thoughts:

  1. As a social code, adopt the code of honour that I wrote about in an early post. Do no harm, everything by agreement, and be your word if adopted with courage and determination should keep us in good stead with our world.
  2. Using our rational minds to the best of our ability, choose actions wisely that will help us build the life of our dreams.
  3. Don’t allow ourselves to be distracted. Let us focus tightly when working on our dreams.

These are three simple ideals that we can live by. Join me in continuing our evolution to bring about A World of Honour.

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