By David Hegg
It is rare when we think deeply anymore. In too many ways, and in too many instances, we are becoming a people who let others do our thinking for us.
It is common today to find a few heroes and follow them blindly. They may be politicians, a news organization, clergymen, or some others we think have their head on straight. With our hurried schedules it just becomes easier to listen to those we like and trust, and then just think and spew their thoughts after them. We’re becoming a society of parrots, and it’s time to realize we’re being caged by those whom we’ve allowed to do our contemplating for us.
Let me lay it out for you. Every day we take in tons of information. It is thought that we take in more new information in a day than the founding fathers did in a lifetime. But after intake should come contemplation. That is, we take what we’ve been told, and then take time to analyze it, throw it up against our standards of reason and virtue, mull it over and even discuss it with others, and then make a decision about it. Is it true? Is it meaningful? Does it determine a change in our behavior, our ethical system, our opinion, our action? Does it become part of our belief system, or can it just be flushed as needless chaff that must not clutter up our memories?
The problem today is that we are so bombarded with information that we largely have no time for contemplation, and we easily slip into the horrible habit of allowing others to contemplate and decide just how we should believe and act upon the information they give us.
There are at least two things we must recognize, and deal with, in order to re-establish our personal priority to think deeply, to contemplate. These may help us radically limit the amount of power we give to those who would have us become more and more passive in discerning the issues and trends that are driving our world.
First, recognize that your environment will shape your ability to think. By this I mean we simply have to find time and space to think. Years ago, I set up a study in my home. Some shelves, a small desk and chair, lamps (no fluorescents for me!), a nice area rug, and a comfortable leather reading chair. Now I find it a space I long to enter, to study, read good books and real news in a place that begs me to stay and contemplate. To assume that through the internet, social media, broadcast news and talk radio we can gain a correct perspective on our world and the things that need our attention is both foolish and dangerous.
We all need to stake out our personal contemplative space, and then use it to actually think deeply, analyze carefully, and determine wisely who we are, and how we will deal with the stuff this world throws around every day. It may not be a room, but it must be room in your day and brain that calls you to retreat and think deeply.
Second, recognize that how you feel can never be the deciding factor in how you will live. That which incites your emotions is not necessarily best for your mind, heart, soul and strength. Truth does not always come in a feel-good package, just like gold is never found lying on the surface. Most things worth having take work, and that goes for understanding and wisdom as well. As physical exercise strengthens our physical muscles, so also reading, contemplation, reflection and conversation strengthen our ability to think beyond the sound bites and decide for ourselves.
This is absolutely necessary if we are to stay a vibrant people, who are up to the challenge of holding those who hold positions of authority over us accountable.
After all, if our authority structures are to remain of the people, by the people, and for the people, the people can’t be intellectually caged parrots who have lost the ability to think for themselves.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.