Friday, 7 December 2012

Thinking about thinking

Some would regard it as a noble task, I'm sure – thinking about thinking. Others would object; surely there are more important things in life than thinking about thinking about thinking... So I've been thinking about this issue, then I stop to ask myself whether I should be thinking about it at all? But that requires asking whether I think I should be thinking about thinking, and I end up in a vicious cycle of befuddlement.

I take a deep breath and start over.

Facebook often provides some interesting insights; some time ago I read the following quote:

“Life's not about quotes about life.”

At first it seemed quite silly. What does it mean, life is not about quotes about life? It seems almost as absurd as my first proposal, thinking about thinking, ending up in a endless cycle like a dog chasing its tail. As I thought about this I formed a similar little proverb:

“Life's not about thinking about life.”

It seemed that this little proverb was trying to tell me something – someone who has the ability to spend endless hours doing nothing but thinking. What, it asked me, is the point of spending all your time thinking about life and never actually stepping out and living it?

I am a firm believer in thinking, and I think many travellers on the road of life should stop more often to think about the direction they are going in. However, life is ultimately not made up of thoughts, but of experiences. You are born – that is an experience, and we all eventually experience death. Your life is not merely a thought. You are a person, with the ability to go places and to do things, to experience emotions of joy and pain, to meet people and to develop relationships. You may ponder these things, letting your mind think about the great meal you just had, remembering a painful experience, longing to see a loved one. Thoughts give substance to our experiences and brings everything together so that life makes sense. But at the end of the day your deepest longings are not to exercise your mind, but to have meaningful experiences.

With this in mind one might emphasise a purely practical lifestyle, not wasting time thinking about things which cannot be seen or touched, such as endless questions about the ultimate meaning of life. I admit, I have spent many hours pondering this question of the meaning of life and at times have found, at the end of a very long chain of thoughts, emptiness. However, I would like to propose that it is possible to experience things which cannot be seen or touched, such as spiritual experiences.

One of the most fundamental questions about life is asking, why am I here? And while this is a question of the mind, I believe that the answer does not come by way of a long series of thoughts that eventually lead to a logical conclusion, but rather by experiencing a very real relationship with the Person who made you in the first place – God.

I fear that many people who consider themselves to be religious have many thoughts about what is true and what is not, but it has no effect on their lives. They are merely convictions of the mind which are nothing more than thoughts about life; a good exercise for the mind, but without substance. The Bible offers something better. It offer something not just to be convinced about, but something to experience; in your heart, and afterwards in your visible life. It offers the opportunity to get to know your Creator, knowing what He is like, but also personally experiencing his love and forgiveness, and letting Him lead you on the road of life. An example of someone who understood this is David, who wrote the following psalm about his relationship with God, which was a daily reality for him.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.He makes me lie down in green pastures.He leads me beside still waters.He restores my soul.He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23