“Where there is no critical perspective, no detached observation, no time to ask the pertinent questions, how can one avoid being deluded and confused?” Thomas Merton
Philosophers are known to dabble in “thought experiments,” or testing out ideas via the vast mechanisms of the mind. One usually begins a thought experiment with some sort of logic, which eventually evolves into a mysterious kind of intuition and creativity.
The Chief End of Man
For instance, my readings of late have lured me into thinking the purpose of life in the kingdom of God is pleasure. Yes… pleasure. I have mentally “massaged” the Westminster Catechism to read, “The chief end of man is to please God and to find pleasure in him forever.”
In the Episcopal Book of Prayer, The Eucharistic Prayer begins with the words, “Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself…” And so my thought experiment goes on, wrangling with the outrageous assumption that all creation exists for God’s good pleasure: earth, rocks, trees, bushes, animals and finally human beings. It is in human beings that God finds his greatest pleasure. Sentient beings with free will and a choice to love and receive the love of God. That choice “pleases God.”
So what do I do with such wild ponderings or thought experiments? I learn. I synthesize. I discover clarity. And I reorganize my thoughts more lucidly. As a result, according to Thomas Merton, I can “avoid being deluded and confused.” Aristotle once wrote, “There are three prominent types of life: pleasure, political, and contemplative.” Personally, I take a lifestyle of contemplation.
Part and parcel with thought experiments is the notion of contemplation where one assumes a critical perspective, asks pertinent questions (of self and others), and attempts to detach from one’s self-aggrandizing ego.
The Route to Creative Thought
That is why I am such a stout advocate of “pondering.” The kind of thinking that leads to non-thinking and allows my mind to prepare for thoughts other than those of logic and reason; the kind of thought that invites one to dip toes into the mystery of life. Similar to the concept of “right-brained” thinking, pondering and contemplation are fertile ground for creative and experimental thought.
The first requirement, it seems to me, is to read and study widely and wildly. Books and lectures (on YouTube) have greatly enhanced my “thought platform” freeing me up to ask questions that I previously didn’t even know what the questions were.
The Discipline of Pondering
Know this, powerful pondering is an act of discipline. (1) Do your reading or information gathering, (2) Set aside time for contemplation, (3) Ask yourself the hard questions, (4) Reformulate, and (5) Write it down your ideas to ruminate all over again.
What you will find is “your truth,” the kinds of truths that are consistent with both who you are and who you are becoming.
And Clarity of Mind Will Sprout
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