Many years ago, I caught a talk that my old Rector from the Seminary gave after he went to a Parish to be a Pastor. After speaking about several things, he learned in his new assignment that he startled everyone with the assertion that each day he enjoyed stopping work and going upstairs to sit and think.
“Think what?”, I thought. It seemed like a waste of time to me! Then, maybe, what he was alluding to was going to his room for a siesta!
Coming from a working-class background, I was told to be useful and, if I ever attempted to sit and ‘think’, my mother would have slapped me in the back of the head and told me to get busy! Even our garden had to be useful. I once announced to my parents that I was going to plant flowers in our garden. They both looked at me in horror. Finally, my mother broke the silence and said: “Don’t be stupid. You can’t eat flowers!” And so, I planted tomatoes and string beans!
So, when my old Rector said he went to his room to think, I heard him with my working-class ears and my working-class attitude.
But he was right.
We confuse thinking with wasting time. But, if we are honest, we probably think a lot, even obsess, when we should be keeping our attention on what we are doing. We could be driving or doing something in the garden or being at work, and yet our minds are churning away. Worry, getting even, plans, fears: our minds are constantly at it. But is it fruitful? We seem to do a lot of thinking when we should have our attention fixed on what we are doing or to whom we are listening.
The Rector that I spoke about dedicated real time to do some real thinking, sometimes with a pad and pencil and sometimes looking at the sunset as he drifted from thinking to praying.
The ability to think is one of the most important things about being human. We are rational beings. Our brains are the most complex realities known to man. Thinking, therefore, should be more than what we do accidentally from the corners of our consciousness.
Setting aside some time to think through our lives and what we love and value should be one of our top priorities. Arguably, one of the results of this lockdown in our dealing with the Pandemic is that we have more time to think. We must, however, distinguish this from brooding, which is not a healthy choice. Brooding is filled with fear and anger. One can be the play-thing of demons if we enter into that stage of consciousness!
The true companion of thinking is praying. In prayer, we open ourselves up to Divine Providence, so that our thinking moves in the direction of wisdom and some of the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. To me, it is amazing that, when I have a seemingly impossible problem and I ask for help from God and just wait in confident hope for God to assist me, things become clearer: I see what I have to do and what I have to avoid. I can’t fully explain it. It just happens! God wants to be so involved and, yet, we often close Him out and go our own way. He gets the blame, though, if things go wrong!
For this to work for our benefit, we need solitude and time. We need an open heart. Mix a little silence with these and we have a wonderful spiritual meal!
Even in secular literature, be it Plato or Thoreau, you get the oft repeated axiom, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” That is akin to what I am trying to say. If we go slowly and think in quality time, and if we include the Divine Observer, life becomes more livable and the future is not as frightening!
It is a gift to just take a comfortable moment and decide to think through a problem or an issue! That time is not wasted. Arguably, it is a great use of time since we may come upon an unexpected and attractive choice that would not be in our mind unless we spent that time.
Time is spent in thought is a good investment. So invest now!