The Hard Work of Thinking

Rex Stout was an author of detective novels. He created a character who had emigrated to New York City from the region around Serbia or Macedonia following World War I. Nero Wolf liked a good life of never leaving his house, tending to his orchids, eating fine food prepared by his personal chef–and solving murder cases for a fee.

His secretary/assistant Archie Goodwin would go out and gather information and then pressure Wolf to go to work–thinking through the problem to solve the mystery. Late in each story, Wolf would sit back in his chair custom-designed for his large frame, close his eyes, and his lips would start to purse out and return. That was a sign he finally had gotten around to the hard work of thinking.

I just finished a project that requires at least 10 hours of concentrated thinking following many hours of preparation. I keep putting it off knowing how hard it is. Then, I sit down, pull out the laptop, and go to work. I find out that 1) it’s not so bad as I thought and 2) losing yourself in concentration and then coming up for air generates a good feeling.

How many things, I wonder, would benefit from us taking a few minutes of concentrated thinking rather than spouting off an ill-formed opinion based upon emotional reaction to a stimulus?

Maybe we would not be so easily manipulated by others.

Maybe we would mature and have adult conversations.

Maybe hate and division would settle into respect, debate, and working out the best possible answer.

But that all requires work. Thinking is a discipline worthy of practice.

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