I had a recent experience wherein I introduced a recent acquaintance from church to this humble blog of mine. I may be quite comfortable with who I am and unashamed of what I write, so long as it is honest, but, still, we are all flawed humans, and I was almost nervous as to what this gentleman would think. I don’t know how much of it he read, but it was apparently enough that he could call it, “very impressive,” and further assert that I am a good writer and “have given a lot of thought to the books and movies [I] have reviewed.”
Obviously, I was glowing with some satisfaction at the compliment. 🙂
But as I was glowing, it occurred to me that, really, almost everything we do is about how much thought we put into it. The things we enjoy, the things we prioritize, what we value and choose… it’s all about thinking.
There is, of course, my humble blog here, and if I could create stories at the same pace I can comment on them, I could well have written texts which match The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Wheel of Time, The Stormlight Archive, and A Song of Ice and Fire put together. (Particularly if I had enough success that I could devote myself to it full-time)
For me, this blog is what I do to keep from going insane. I think, I write, I pour my heart and soul into this at every opportune time. It’s what I do. I delve into the library of stories we tell, and I bring out the lessons that they teach us. I sift through unending chaff to find the jewels that are worth sharing, and also to detect what is not worth our time at all. I swim the sea of words, plumb the depths and reach for the heights, and I share all of it because, well, to do otherwise would be to dull my mind, muzzle my spirit, and drown in daily life.
This is my passion. This is what I think about.
Other people, with different interests, may dismiss it as simple, superfluous, infantile, and other sorts of dismissive descriptors. I would contest that only holds true until you think about it.
Even more, I would say that those people with their differing interests are not so different from myself: the things which they are most interested in are the things which they think about. Or, to put it another way, it is the fact that we can think about something which rivets our attention to it in the first place.
Take, for instance, what is probably be the most outstanding contrast I can think of: sports. Most especially, football.
I like stories, and my sister likes football. To each their own. I don’t find it interesting myself, but I think I can now begin to understand the why, or at least the how, of other people’s interest.
The short version: it’s something they can talk about, meaning it’s something they can think about.
If that seems a bit ironic, given how athletes and fans and even high school jocks are typically stereotyped as somewhat lacking in the mental department, well, I am reminded of a comedic sketch done by Trevor Noah, where he pokes a bit of fun at Americans’ general, rabid interest in the sport. He imitates the frenzied rattling of stats which are the badge of honor among sports fans, with all sorts of numbers and incomprehensible lingo, culminating with, “What’s happening with the economy? Nobody knows.”
Yes, there is a great deal of physical excitement with physical sports, the spectacle of humans pitting their flesh against one another in a contest which nobody can know the end result of until it is actually over. But the fervor would be greatly diminished without the commentary, the analysis, the stats, the fantasy leagues, the ranking… basically, all the thinking that goes into it. That is what ignites the fire of excitement long before the game begins, and keeps the flame burning long after the game is done.
To think about something – anything, really – is to enliven one’s mind and one’s soul. The exact subject matter might be of debatable value, but even that is something which encourages thinking.
For another sharp contrast to both my own interest and sports, here’s what is probably the most dominant and infamous example of a passion which a huge swathe humanity’s population has never understood:
Where I don’t really have any interest in sports, I absolutely shudder in the face of fashion. I can tell if something looks good to my eye, and that is the limit of my interest. It is quite beyond me to understand our society’s zealotry for clothes and accessories and makeup and everything else. It baffles and terrifies me as it seems to bridge the gap between emotional whims, a precise, informed intelligence which makes sports fans and economists alike look dull-witted, and a ruthless calculus that makes the military and even the most cunning politicians look tame and cuddly.
If there is one thing I hope never to do, it is to go shopping for clothes with someone fashionable. I had enough of that with my mother in my childhood, and I hope to never repeat the experience. It’s one of those things where I happily subscribe to the male stereotype: if it fits and looks good, grab three sets, and done. The function of our clothing is fulfilled.
But even then, even then… I must admit that the clothes I pick out had to come from somewhere, and were selected by someone who put a great deal of thought into it.
I remember – almost good enough to quote – a scene in The Devil Wears Prada. As a young woman, recently hired as an assistant to a fashion mogul, observes the selection of clothing to create an outfit, she snickers involuntarily, because she can’t tell the difference between two belts, which makes the agonizing decision look quite silly. But her boss hears her, and proceeds to lecture her.
The gist of what this fashion queen says to her new employee is to point out that what she, herself, is wearing is thanks to someone picking it out of a pile for her to eventually pick off a store rack. Her sweater, for instance, is made from a specific material, dyed a specific color, and woven in a specific way, all of which together caught the attention of the people who knew they could sell it to someone with her specific taste in clothing.
There is a maddening multitude of intricacies involved in fashion, and I have neither the hope nor the interest in mastering them. But for those who do, that is their life. That is what they do, so it is what they think about, and it is because they think about it that they do it.
And so it goes, again and again.
Construction workers think about building what architects think about designing with materials that manufacturers think about producing.
Fishermen need to know every aspect of their trade to survive, and ranchers must know everything about every aspect of caring for their livestock.
Farmers have a vested interest in growing as much good food as possible, and selling it for the best price possible. So they think about how to go about it, and for all their humble circumstances, they think about very advanced and complicated subjects like stem cells, genetic modification of crops, and the decisions made in the highest offices of the land which impact their ability to feed themselves and the world around them.
Florists arrange flowers with all sorts of nuances of meaning and visual aesthetic. Priests are concerned with issues of faith. Happy marriages are marked by how much the spouses think about each other. Parents are concerned for their children. Teachers must judge how to handle their students as well as the parents of each child. Even sewage workers need to know what they are doing, lest entire cities end up deep in their own leavings.
Everything we do, everything we prioritize, everything we enjoy, is all about how much we think about it.
That’s how and why we’re able to do what we do as well as we do it.
That’s the secret.
It’s all about thinking.