The Spirit of the Age

“The spirit of the age is filled with the disdain for thinking.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

Learning to think is one of the most underrated and overlooked of the steps that lead to living a purposeful, meaningful and fulfilling life. Far more than developing the ability to ingest, digest and retain information, learning to think involves developing that uncommon sense called wisdom.

I once heard wisdom described as the “sense of the fitness of things” and I have yet to discover a better definition for this rare commodity. Wisdom comes only from those who are truly at rest in themselves and it only emerges through a heart and mind free of tension, fear or greed. Wisdom, in a way, is the natural expression of one who stands assuredly yet humbly in this place that is uniquely his or hers to occupy.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca once wrote that “No man was ever wise by chance.” Wisdom is not cleverness, neither is it the ability to manipulate knowledge. Wisdom, instead, is received as you learn to think in the sense that I believe Dr. Schweitzer was describing.

Every flash of inspiration or stroke of genius was nothing more than the evidence of an individual who was, at least for the moment, open to the ever-flowing fountain of wisdom. Thinking is much more than mental machination. Thinking involves both heart and mind, and both must be at peace for the windmills of your mind to work properly.

Have you ever focused intensely on resolving a problem and then walked away from it for a moment, forgetting about it in the process and then somehow had the solution magically and suddenly “come” to you? Well, duh, you came to rest for a moment and voila, the wheel could turn and wisdom flowed freely.

Your level of education is no more a measure of your ability to be wise than your shoe size is a measure of your ability to run quickly. Neither is your relative accumulation of “street smarts.” Wisdom comes only to those who are captains of their soul, those who have come to the point where they are not defined by the outer things – clothing, looks, social position, wealth, wit and so on – but instead those who are at rest in themselves.

You can and should be an aperture for the expression of wisdom into the world you center. Don’t be afraid of thinking, truly thinking. There is an old saying: “Teach a man to think he thinks and he will love you. Teach a man to think and he will hate you.” Well, I for one stand ready to be hated if those are indeed the terms.

Thinking in the sense being described here is a tremendous privilege. It is the means by which purposeful, meaningful contributions are made. Without thinking you may live a life that feels comfortable at first, but in the long run you will miss out on the fulfillment of your life’s true purpose.

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11 Responses to The Spirit of the Age

  1. Colleen says:

    I am so involved with learning new things that sometimes I feel that the physical world as we know it is not our limit. Read a book by Mark Twain or just the right poem by Robert Frost and you can see that even in their somewhat small situations both of these authors were so large in what they opened up. They left really big echos! And now we have a chance to share in what they did and decide what we as individuals want to say in our lifetime. So don’t leave a big foot print, but leave a Huge Echo!!

  2. Reina says:

    I had the pleasure of attending a College graduation this weekend and the topic for the “speaker”, one of the esteemed college professors was THINKING. She mentioned that the mark of a good educational institute was how well they taught their students to THINK. She went on to explain the differences between memorization, regurgitation and true “thinking”. Your post was very similar to her words to the graduating seniors along with the instillation of hope that they would go on to use their ability to “think” to move out and change the world around them. It was a profound and powerful send off for those who will one day be the leaders of our world. Thanks for sharing this on your blog. It is a true necessity in the world.

  3. Colin says:

    I have definetly had the experience you describe where you get the answer to something only after you stop trying to force it out. It’s funny that that isn’t seen then as the best way to allow wisdom to come out from wherever is comes from. People forget that wisdom isn’t a collection of knowledge. The habit of allowing yourself to be at rest with an issue that needs to be solved is something that should be the default, not an afterthought.

  4. Flow says:

    Love this post, Gregg. Appreciate the points about wisdom being available to those who are at rest…heart and mind.

  5. Isabelle Kearney says:

    Real thinking is such a rarity. It seems that so often, what’s considered thinking is what someone taught you, what you may have read or heard someone else say, but where’s the originality in that?

    I liked the correlation between a purposeful/meaningful life and being able to truly think, a.k.a. wisdom.

  6. Kimberly says:

    Beautiful post and I love the comments. Taking the time and the letting myself just relax from whirring thoughts always opens the door to more creativity. Thinking is such an art. It’s sad that there is usually not much room for it in most educational settings. Having to cram in the requisite information to pass the standard tests does little for the nurturing of wisdom or even common sense.

  7. Foxglove says:

    In an enlightened society, bottomless gratitude is the result of having learned to think……though in a derelict one, ignorance and spite prevail. Praiseworthy post here friend…..

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