The knowledge of a carpenter is in his hands. The apprentice must work with his own to discover it. Here is some terrible advice: “If you can't explain it to a 6-year-old, you don't understand it yourself.”
"Contemplate" is "with-time-ize" etymologically...the root of the metaphor here (and most words are metaphors, and most of the roots have been lost to most people) suggests investing time into something, even if you are "merely" looking at it. Lovely post.
It seems to me that the art of long distance thinking is somewhat similar to another skill: long distance walking.
But both are hard because of the nature and quality of attention that they demand of us.
Long distance walking is a skill that we moderns are yet to well master. No, not walking-for-exercise, or walking-to-listen-to-a-podcast... just solo walking with no specific object in mind but to walk. And to walk anywhere. Not just in nature, but to also wander our streets, to stride across hills and to explore our markets. These things need time, attention and immersion.
The Bible records a further interesting take on walking. Psalms 1:1
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers,.."
From this phrase walking seems to be the cause and the effect of clear thinking. It is the source of divergent and sustained thinking (contemplation). Walking sets the stage for the thoughts we will have, the attitudes we will adopt and the perspectives we will cherish.
A good walk may help us discover muddied thinking. As opposed to just standing and sitting whose effects may not be as desirable. Further in the Chapter the good man finds joy in "meditating" on scriptures: deep contemplation on the matters of virtuous life.
It is said that Kant walked daily... In past periods many more understood the value of walking and its effect on our thoughts.
We may evolve deeper thinking by learning longer walking because our best thoughts are a stretch, never a mile.
This is very very good. I tend to rate highly thinkers who are willing to not simply question received wisdom, but question received assumptions that produce that wisdom. To truly think differently about your own generation you have to understand it deeply. Thank you for this essay.
This is funny, because I just came across Richard Feynman's techniques of learning, which begin with... "Pretend to teach a concept you want to learn about to a student in the sixth grade." I think this is useful to some degree, but, why this obsession with efficiency? It seems like these rules are created by people who have been subsumed by the industrial complex without accepting their own sensitivity, humanity, imperfection, and wonder.
It's also interesting how Bill Watterson's commencement speech, given in 1990, remains relevant year after year: "Ambition is only understood if it's to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth."
It seems like this current cultural moment is so obsessed with ideas of a better future that it constantly forgets the present moment. It's as if the present's only use is to plan for the future, and nowadays to make that planning as optimized and efficient as possible. Reminds me of Alan Watts "Wisdom Of Insecurity" as well. Great post!
Excellent. I have been following with some degree of trepidation and mild unease the tendency lately to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator, often under the excuse you've mentioned. Being able to explain things to a 5/6 year old is a fine thing, but is really applicable only in a few domains. Maturity, life experience, pleasure, pain, sorrow, ethics - these are all things that cannot be simplified beyond a certain point. Nor should they be.
great piece. i think our desire for summary is exacerbated by the type of content we consume, which tends to have a character limit these days.. our attention spans are so shot that anything more than summary is too much for us to comprehend
"But it should not be lost on us that history never repeats, and modern technology enables ever more leverage. "
Are you positing that history doesn't repeat itself or am I misunderstanding?
Brilliant examination of the dictionary definition through time - spirit of the age and increasing compactness. Knowledge is treated now as something to be consumed, rather than "lived with," approached and experienced, grown with; contemplation includes this longer-lived approach and attentiveness. Your posts - worth the wait - reflect the ethos of slow growth. Thank you.