Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 270
November 17, 1997

Thinking about Thinking


An out-of-the-way quote of Abraham Lincoln tugs at my mind as my eye scans several to-do lists: "We must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves." I wonder at the strange attraction, almost addiction, to a busy schedule and my disinclination to take the time to think.

Of course, an active schedule does mean that much gets accomplished, and the items not crossed off show there is always more to be done. Still, the need to have an overly-full schedule leads me to believe that there is also a sense of self-worth in the busyness. Turning Descartes on his head, "I am busy, therefore I am."

Reflecting on Lincoln's words leads me to believe that too much of what I do is a routine repetition of the past. It was once said of a minister who stayed at each church five years and then would move on: "He had five years experience four times." Busyness, crowding out thinking anew, means that there is little incentive for acting anew.

Acting anew is vitally important. Without it, I find that my actions, attuned to past tasks, are not always appropriate to changed circumstances. For example, surface similarities of the desire for personal independence and a driver's license lulled me into assuming that today's youth are like those in the past, whereas, their deeper desires, needs and moods are really quite different. Some reflection might have helped me respond earlier to the change. A once exciting pattern developed around a church rite has become routine and has lost some of its freshness. Thinking about the consequences of the turmoil a friend went through could have made me responsive to him earlier than I was.

My busyness is more than a passion; it is an excuse. Thinking, and thinking hard, is excruciating. Pain-avoidance is a natural biological trait, especially when pleasure-seeking can be obtained from a busy schedule.

Now that we soon will be at the gateway to a new year with its mandatory resolutions, I am adding this reminder to my to-do list: "Abraham Lincoln: disenthrall, think, act." And, when I complete the many other items on the list, I will certainly make certain that Lincoln gets on the next to-do list.


--Robert H. Tucker
17 November 1997

© Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
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