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Thinking about thinking

| Thursday, September 24, 2020

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about thinking lately. Maybe I’m thinking a lot about thinking because of my three philosophy classes this semester. Maybe I’m thinking a lot about thinking because there has just been a lot of time to think. Maybe I’m thinking a lot about thinking because the very process of creating a thought fascinates me. 

I recently read Pascal’s “Penseés” in one of my classes, and I think he might be an influence I can pin down for all my thinking about thinking. Pascal has some great one-liners. Here are a few Pascal quotes related to thinking that I’m thinking about these days. 

“When we read too fast or too slowly we understand nothing.”

Perhaps when we try to do anything too fast or too slow, we don’t understand. Is the same with our thoughts? We can’t really rush an idea along in our head, but then again, we can brainstorm many ideas at once. How does that work? 

“We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight.”

This aligns with the whole thought creation process. It’s a lot easier to think about what happened and what could happen or what was and what will be than what’s actually going on right in front of us — right here, right now. Why is that? Why is thinking almost easier when it’s about the past or the future? Why can’t we think here and now?

“We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our heart.”

So if I’m sitting on a bench somewhere on campus trying to reason something out in my head, I may not actually find the truth by doing this. Thinking isn’t the only thing that leads us to the truth or an answer, but my heart actually does too? Intuition is absolutely wild! And I definitely don’t understand how it works. 

Pascal also asks us to “imagine a body of thinking members.” Whenever you’re thinking on this campus, which is probably every minute you’re not asleep, everyone else on this campus is also thinking. And everyone is thinking about different things, or thinking about the same thing with a different perspective. That’s pretty wild if you stop and THINK about it for a while. 

I’ll stop sharing my thoughts about thinking here, but I will add there are definitely some great places for thinking about thinking on this campus. My favorite is the sitting circle area outside O’Shag looking out on South Quad. I also enjoy laying on the North Quad at night and seeing the stars if the night sky is clear. The sitting area behind the CSC is great if you can ever snag a table. My friend’s futon outside Stanford Hall is nice, too. The lake is never a bad place to sit, and the long NDH line during lunch rush hour isn’t too bad either. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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