Taking Time To Think About It

Those who add careful observation to what
they see and serious reflection to what they read
are on the road to wisdom instead of opinion.

Contemplation is a practice that reaches back before written history, but it is a life skill that is sorely neglected today in Western culture. In order to make sense of our lives we need time to consider and reflect, time away from phones, work, and the myriad interruptions that plague our daily lives. We need time to let ourselves absorb and make sense of all the information that has come our way.

Human beings are extremely good at acquiring data, but not all that accurate in our interpretations unless we take time to think about it. Quick decisions are an asset when we’re relatively unarmed soft-skinned creatures creeping through the jungle, but not so effective in our complicated, modern world with its vast flow of information that needs to be interpreted before it can be successfully applied.

The cost of off-the-cuff conclusions can be incredibly high. We need only look back at the mistakes of our past, or consider the fluff that is constantly shared by email or on social media, in order to see how failure to think carefully about what we’re doing can make us look shallow  — or create far more serious problems when we let others think for us and then accept their conclusions as our own.

Some people find opportunities for reflection by turning off the radio and staying off the phone when driving (with the added benefit, in the latter case, of reducing their chances of a crash by about 75%). Others keep the buds out of their ears on the bus or subway, listening to their thoughts instead of music or podcasts. Some turn the TV off for a while and just sit and ponder a bit. Others practice meditation, or take quiet walks — again, without electronic enhancements.

The point is to become conscious and aware of interconnections among the things that happen in our lives, rather than living in short sound bites. This allows us to deepen, grow stronger, and begin to develop wisdom. Doesn’t that beat merely collecting experiences and shallow ideas while telling ourselves that we are gaining real understanding of the world and our place in it?

Or is it too scary to — well — contemplate?

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