I would like to propose the idea that thinking is an art. It is an art in the same way as is writing, photography, textile making, composing a song, painting, drawing, playing a piano or any other medium.It is a purposeful activity over which we exercise some control. Control is the key word. Thinking is not always conscious. The evidence that the unconscious mind can join in purposeful mental activity is overwhelming. For example: when you come up with the perfect answer just when you stop working on the problem. Your conscious mind turns to other matters and yet you receive the answer.
Thinking is any mental activity that helps formulate or solve a problem, make a decision, or fulfill a desire to understand. It is searching for answers, and finding meaning.
I believe, as do others, that our schools don’t teach our children how to perform the art of thinking. Thinking and not just experience a reflux of information is very different. With so much emphasis on testing, our children know facts and yet can not think through the facts to make good decisions for their own lives and for others. Without the actual thinking, it is easier for governments and religions to just move us along on the path they want us to take. The one that best serves their agenda.
Thinking in terms of tradition, often there is a basis for accomplishing certain activities. It is always a good thing to learn from the past. But there must be a balance between traditional activities and thinking about a better action or answer. Factual knowledge does not always guarantee success in solving a problem.
I am sharing this poem not because it is emotional, or better than any I have read here on WordPress. It does teach a lesson and I am sure that each of us will come up with parallel situations.
“One day through the primeval wood
A calf walked home as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
And I infer the calf”s dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.
The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way,
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o’ver hill and glade
Through those old woods a path was made.
And many men wound in and out
And dodged and dodged and bent about
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because t’was such a crooked path;
But still they followed—but do not laugh—
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding woodway stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.
This forest path became a lane
That bent and turned and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street;
And thus, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.
Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed this zigzag calf about
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
One hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.”
—Sam Walter Foss
Sometimes, tradition is nothing more than “well established” precedent. Sometimes the best answers are found within our subconscious; when we develop the art of thinking.
The Thinking Man, Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, Ohio