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Intro to thinking
Obviously you can think - we all can, but can you think deeply?
I don't suggest that you should go into a trance to invoke spiritual guidance but to effectively think deeply requires the employment of technique. Can you imagine the basic challenge of a designer of a totally new machine/device called-for by a client? He finds himself looking at a blank sheet without guidance other than his own experience; it can be very demanding. What does he do if he gets what authors call 'writers' block'? Who can he turn-to to make progress?
What about a scientist, how does he generate a new theory?
If you wish to explore fundamental matters by seeking a fresh view-point, where do you start?
Let's examine the diagram at the top of this page.
1 How to Think
Logically - one should think logically - progress from a known point; we don't need to re-invent the wheel every time we start a new project. Suppose you wish to landscape a new garden plot; think of a basic theme, to do that, consider the incorporation of features of your choice: do you need a play area for children? do you want to produce your own vegies or just some herbs for the kitchen? how about fruit trees? does the plot have natural contours or water features? The answers to these and other possible questions create a palette from which to work to create your masterpiece. Obviously, cost and availability of materials has an important bearing on the outcome but this basic attack plan provides the skeleton for the project. One can then see the extent of the project and anticipate the problems.
Pictorially - The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is quite true; it would take quite an essay to put into words all that is conveyed by the diagram at the top of this page. Not only does it save words, the information is presented in a manner which is more easily assimilated by the brain.
If one is at a seminar, making notes, it is much quicker and easier to scribble key words in some diagrammatic form than to write sentences. The addition of connecting lines across the diagram can further enhance the understanding of what has been presented.
The anacapa technique used by crime investigators where known facts are pasted on a wall, allowing links to be made, is an extension to this principle.
Analyzers of social media use this method very effectively to find connections between subscribers and their associates - be warned, you have a spy in your camp.
In the construction industry a technique know as Critical Path Analysis is used to monitor progress in the various spheres. The associated diagram enables 'what if?' questions to be applied to establish the overall effects of delays in particular elements.
Illogically - If the lead to a solution does not present itself, jot down apparently stupid notions and scribble why they do not work. Probably non of the ideas you come up with are realistic solutions, but there maybe an element in one idea that can be used to make another idea work.
Ignorance can be bliss; a colleague and I were presented with a challenge by a specialist manufacturer of miniature ball bearings. They had need to make even smaller balls but their very experienced design team could not find a solution to a particular problem. We had no idea how such balls were made so the client asked that we should not try to find out - he wanted a fresh angle on the procedure. By throwing 'daft' ideas back and forth between us we found the solution in less than 48 hours. The client was delighted - it was a fantastic break-through.
2 Searching for a solution
Taking notes, particularly in the diagrammatic form discussed above, is most helpful; it focuses on the problem as well as being a record of what has been considered.
Mentally challenge the ideas being put forward; are they realistic, can they be achieved.
Consider extremes - for example: you are furnishing your very first home and are considering the dining room furniture. Should you buy a table suitable for just the two of you or should you choose one large enough for dinner parties for say twenty people. Obviously the first would be too small after children were born while the latter would be too large (unless you owned a mansion). Cost also would be a factor in choosing the right table for your current circumstances.
Explain the problem to someone else - it's not a matter of expecting them to solve your problem; maybe the person does not have the appropriate experience to help but, the very act of putting the salient features together can clear one's own mind and lead to the solution. A number of times I have explained technical problems to my non-technical wife and in so doing have arrived at a solution.
Sleep on it - this is not simply a delaying tactic. If, just as you are about to go to sleep for the night, you summarize the problem and then dose off, your subconscious mind - now free of daily distractions, puts matters together and in the morning - eureka, the solution is presented. It can appear like divine guidance.
3 Consider alternatives
Art gives pleasure
Thinking about what makes people happy draws one to the balance between financial/material wealth and the more human pleasures of social relationships (pets as well as acquaintances) together with expressions of talent and the appreciation of Nature.
Thinking of pictorial art we could discuss the difference between a masterpiece and simply a good painting. A good painting is the result of skill with the brush, choice of colours, light and shade together with the employment of perspective, whereas a masterpiece is the expression of the artist's emotions; the work is imbued with his/her passions. If the viewer 'enters' that aura full understanding and appreciation is gained.
However, this field is marred by the tendency for the viewer to simply go-with-the-flow and be led by what is considered to be trendy rather than forming ones own impression. This problem applies to sculpture, to poetry and literature and to other art forms - including fashion. Many are reluctant to show apparent ignorance by failing to admit they do not appreciate the deeper thoughts behind the presentation; as a result, fads develop - people blindly follow a trend rather than assert their own feelings.
Science versus Religion
A large percentage of the global population base their thinking on the teachings of the many religious bodies - and the quirky sects, that have developed over the period of human development. On the other hand, those with a technical bent tend to rely on the development of scientific discoveries to act as their basis for decision making. The two viewpoints need not exclude each other but it is important to appreciate that the former is based on legends from the past, distorted by many myths whereas the latter is a progressive realization of the truth, albeit sometimes deflected by misunderstandings.
The tenets forming the basis for most religions were established roughly (very roughly) 2,000 years ago and have largely remained static. In that same period great developments have taken place - particularly in the last 500 years, with universal knowledge widening the understanding of Nature's ways. This trend will continue at an ever increasing rate leaving the early written word exposed to irrelevance.
The development of religions based on rigid dogma has led to the building of walls between factions; the conflict becoming so severe, wars have developed - further entrenching narrow minded beliefs.
Understanding brings harmony
If it were possible for all humanity to understand 'everything', the 'Us-and-Them' syndrome would disappear - we would all be in harmony. This, of course, is a very tall order but that should not deflect good intention. The only way this could become a trend is to not only allow, but encourage children to be educated in a non sectarian manner. As they become adults, differences in religious beliefs would be diluted and, after a few generations, the barrier would cease to exist. It is not a language barrier so much as a cultural barrier.
I am aware that, in the 1960s, a street in the Northern Ireland city of Belfast was populated by a mix of Catholic and Protestant families; the children used to play together happily at soccer, rounders, or whatever took their fancy - the rules of the games were the same regardless of the beliefs of their parents. However, the extremists saw this as an erosion of their cause. They put a stop to the fun and games - violently.
If only we could learn to understand each other and give meaningful consideration to to alternative viewpoints we would be well on our way to establishing an harmonious society worldwide.
4 Exercise the mind
As with all other worthwhile pursuits, it is necessary to prepare for the challenge ahead. Make no mistake about it, original thinking - casting aside any ingrained bias, is not easy; it requires practice.
The page on this site entitled Thoughts for Practice is intended to trigger thoughts on matters probably not previously considered. The fact that the questions may seem of no consequence to you is irrelevant; they are simply exercises in thinking.
Develop flexibility - be elastic; while focusing on a chosen topic, allow the mind to deviate, to explore avenues possibly unfamiliar in your experience. Dredging the past is an advantage older people have over the not-so-old simply because their past is a whole lot longer; their memory bank is much larger. It can be shown that all of one's experiences through life, be they large or be they small, are locked away in the brain for life; one just needs to unlock the door.
Believe in Yourself - your thoughts must at least be based on your own perceptions; you must be true to yourself. Are you prepared to claim your thought as being original, even though someone else has thought of it before? Don't let that fact deter you; it confirms that you are on the right track with your thoughts.
Hypothesize - write it out. The very act off writing down your thoughts on any matter, focuses the mind as well as enabling the thought train to be tweaked by editing the chosen words. This procedure firms up the concept, giving a proper basis for further expansion.
Follow your inclination. Don't be afraid to give your mind free reign; even consider crazy notions. Daft ideas do, sometimes, lead to worthwhile outcomes. However, apparently crazy ideas do need a thorough check for fear that subsequent development is not founded on quicksand.