Thursday, January 30, 2014

Slow Thinking

There’s this culinary philosophy you might have heard of, it’s called Slow Food.
Slow food came about as part of a wider ‘slow’ movement, a response and resistance to the speeding up of our modern day society. It aims to return people to a saner pace of life, giving more time for reflection, appreciation of moments spent with friends and family, and a way to focus on the ‘slow’ ways of achieving our aims and goals.

Google ‘slow food’ and ‘slow movement’ and you’ll come up with an enormous amount of information if you’re interested in exploring that particular side of the philosophy. My take on the slow way of life is a little different. It's a little more intellectual rather than lifestyle oriented.
I've been developing this little theory; I've called it slow thinking.  This theory has come about mainly in response to certain observations over the years (both my own and other thinkers) that indicate we seem to perceive the end product of our thoughts, our opinions, as being the most important part of the entire intellectual journey.

Most of the time, as soon as a discussion worthy topic is mentioned, those of us who relish a good old debate are straight off the starters and into the race. We rush toward our (often preconceived) opinions as if we are aiming for gold at the Olympics, barely giving a nod to the often long and sometimes many branched pathways we have wandered in order to come to this opinion.
In the act of wanting to broadcast our opinions to the world, or at least to others in the current conversation, we can overlook several facets of thought that I feel are extremely important to thinking and understanding as a whole.

There is a simple saying attributed to Sir Francis Bacon

'Knowledge is power...'

Such a statement seems almost absurd in its obviousness, yet this pure and short philosophy is so commonly overlooked and misunderstood, that I find I am revisiting this sentence and reminding myself of its power on a regular basis. I too am guilty of forgetting such an obvious thing.
By knowledge, I do not mean the mere accumulation of facts, though these too are important in formatting a healthy world view. Knowledge encompasses many things, including our observations, our own and others’ experiences, and that elusive thing we call ‘wisdom’.

So how does all this fit in with the theory of slow thinking?

There is an aspect to knowledge that gets overlooked when we run to the finish line to spew forth our opinions and convince others of their correctness. We overlook the sheer necessity of dwelling on the mechanics of thought. To put it simply (and simple is almost always best), HOW we arrived at our opinions and views is as important (if not more so) as WHAT those views and opinions are.

Knowledge is the power to change ourselves, our environments and sometimes other people or the entire world. Our modern environment consists mainly of man made objects and people, remove other people and we are left with only our individual selves and our built environment.

Who makes and lives in these built environments of ours?


What allows people to influence, recreate and manage their environment most effectively?


It’s therefore not too huge a logical leap to make the connection between what other people think, and the consequences for our own environments.

Slow thinking allows us to wander at leisure through our own thought processes, making observations as to how we came to certain opinions and views, and even analysing these thought processes BEFORE formulating a solid view on a given issue.

We can derive so many extra dimensions to a world view by carefully following the patterns of our own thought pathways, allowing us in many instances to gain a better understanding of ourselves. Knowledge of ourselves is power over our own self.

Another extremely important application of slow thinking is to allow us to meander through the thoughts and thought mechanics of those who may hold wildly differing world views and opinions to our own. At this point I am reminded of some simple yet powerful images I discovered while using Stumbleupon years back. These images were designed by Liu Yang, a Chinese born woman who was educated from her teens through to adult life in Germany. Liu depicts in graphic form divergent world views in an ‘East meets West’ comparison.

Check out these compelling images Liu Yang created to show the difference in thinking.

We often say we understand that others around us think differently to ourselves, but how often do we take the time to try and understand HOW they think, not just WHAT they think. How have their thought processes led them to the conclusions they have made?

Slowing down the rush toward the almighty opinion can fill us with the profound realisation that, essentially, thought mechanics determine our final opinions and views. Understanding these mechanics can provide us with powerful mental tools to both analyse ours and other’s points of view and form a more wholistic, stable, and hopefully wiser world view of our own.

So take some time to purposely slow down those thought processes, move from the rapids of the intellectual river and dwell in amongst the slow flowing eddies and currents beside the bank.  I am certain there will be lots there for you to learn.

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