Something that’s been bugging me recently is that I’ve noticed how minimally people think these days.
What I mean by that is, it’s too easy to receive information, accept it and regurgitate it and people like things easy, so this is what they do. Receive, accept, regurgitate. This annoys me because it limits humans to being simple tubes. Something goes in, goes through, goes out. They don’t even process it!
My friends believe this, therefore I believe it. The news said this, therefore it’s true.
I remember back in high school, no matter how hard I tried, I was pretty bad at Physics and for a kid that understood things quite quickly, I was having a really hard time with this subject. As a result, my Physics teacher actually pulled me aside and gave me a one-to-one class just to get me to understand my SUVAT equations so I could catch up with the rest of the class.
He used to call us all “chickens” as a term of endearment. I went to an all girls school, so any time we’d all be too chatty he’d say, “Alright chickens, quieten down.”
I remember that one-to-one Physics lesson I had and I could see the frustration on my teacher’s face when I just couldn’t understand (considering I was doing fine in all of my other subjects) and he said, in exasperation, “Come on chicken! THINK!”
Think. I actually didn’t know what I was supposed to do. At that point even I was getting frustrated with my own thickness. What did that instruction mean? What is the sensation of thinking? What was the mechanical process I had to trigger to think? How do I know when I’m thinking? I never had to force it before, everything was always so easy. What did he mean?
What does “think” mean? Well when you look it up on the internet the definition is to ponder, reflect, deliberate.
If that was the case, I was thinking… a LOT. With every question I read, I would ask why are we making calculations based on a frictionless plane when no such plane exists on this earth? Why haven’t we come up with a calculation that takes into consideration friction? Have we calculated friction and what amount of friction different planes will cause and why don’t we use that instead to do the calculation? Wouldn’t that make more sense? Otherwise, I’m calculating something non-existent, why?
Why is someone throwing a ball in parabolic motion from the top of a cliff? Who does that? What would possibly compel a person to do that, that I would then have to calculate the speed of the ball falling? Why doesn’t he just drop it? Why does he have to throw it in an arch just so that these equations work? Why didn’t we create equations to calculate this stuff based on how he decided to throw the ball? Why wouldn’t you just use a stop watch and have someone at the bottom watching for when the ball fell? What if he meant to throw it in parabolic motion but it slipped and made a different shape? Would the suvat equations work then? And on and on it went in my head such that, I couldn’t actually focus on the actual equations themselves.
There are answers to all my questions I’m sure but at that time, my questions were irrelevant to the task at hand. What my teacher wanted me to do wasn’t to think. It was to get the equation and apply it to get a result, a result that was already known to be true. Receive, accept, regurgitate.
For some reason, physics was the only subject where I just couldn’t receive accept and regurgitate as easily as the other subjects. To me, there were too many pieces of the puzzle being ignored, eliminated or removed because too many inconsistencies make calculations difficult and I wasn’t able to fill those gaps with anything I knew.
So just to make it easy, the premise is to use a frictionless plane. So… we’re making calculations based on a non-existent (therefore imaginary) situation because otherwise it would be too complicated? Short answer, yes. Surely if you start off with an imaginary premise, you will end up with an imaginary conclusion? So just to make it easy, we’re now just making conclusions true even though they’re based on a premise on something that doesn’t exist? And around and around I would go again.
Don’t mind me, this is what’s considered over thinking. I wasn’t asked to over think. I wasn’t asked to go off on a tangent, nor was I asked to think of anything else other than the suvat equations.
When I finally understood that I was to eliminate my whys and just accept that some dude decided he’d stand at the top of a cliff just ’cause and throw a ball in parabolic motion , I actually started being able to get my calculations right. I did enough to get by and enough to see some relief in my teacher’s face. You see, once you accept the premises, the rest is pretty simple and that’s why he didn’t understand why I couldn’t understand because it was actually simple.
That event stuck with me because it was one of the very few times I really felt slow and it’s only now I realise that I was slow because I couldn’t accept the premises and so I couldn’t move forward with the rest, the simple part. It wasn’t my teacher’s fault, this is the way the system is. We as students need to pass tests and to do that we need to receive information, accept and regurgitate it. If it’s not in the test, then it’s not necessary. To be a good student, you must tell the teacher what they want to hear and what they want to hear is what they told you because what they told you is what you need to pass the test.
Ever asked the question why? And then gotten the answers: Because I said so. Because that’s the way it is. Because that’s the way it’s always been done. Because asking those questions is wasting everyone else’s time. Because other people have already done the thinking for you. Because everyone else does it this way. Because it’s too complicated so don’t ask. Because why is irrelevant. Because it just is. Because God made it that way. Because… well, just ’cause.
Well, this is the reason why people don’t think anymore. Because we’ve been trained to stop asking, to stop being curious, to stop reasoning, that to ask is to hold things up and therefore you should just accept. Accept the premises, do not ask from where they came nor the reasoning behind them nor whether they’re faulty or can be improved.
Just accept regardless of whether or not it makes sense to us and our current knowledge of the ever changing world around us. Things are the way they are because an authority said so, even if that authority was 100 years ago and things are different now and their conclusions were drawn without the knowledge we have now. Just accept even though you’ve found alternative information to what that person’s had to say because they are the authority and you’re not . Just accept even though there are no more tests to pass but because you’re now conditioned to accept.
I can talk this way because this is where I’ve lived most of my life. Just accepting until I realised that my authority figures were getting it wrong sometimes and then finally an event had me realise that everything I accepted and believed was only one person’s opinion, I’d based my whole life and belief system around that one person’s opinion and that person wasn’t even me.
So I started asking questions again. Why? How? Where? When? What else? Who else? How do I feel about that? What do I think about that? What do I believe about that? Why do I believe that? And that’s when I noticed, not many people actually do this.
Here’s a really simple example of thinking. Shallots / Spring Onions. My parents bought them from the shop, they put them in the fridge to store away and so I did the same for years.
I would have continued this way except one day I thought. 1. They are plants. 2. When you put flowers in water they last longer, if you don’t they wilt. So conclusion, why not put the shallots into a glass of water so they last longer? After I experimented and realised they didn’t just last, they grow roots. I thought again, plants with roots need soil. So, I planted them in soil. Done deal, shallots forever. Not just shallots but thick dark green and really strong leaves. Remember, these were the days before the internet and naively I thought everyone was doing this and I was the only dope that was so slow in realising that this is what you’re supposed to do with shallots.
When I moved to London and had no garden, I just kept the shallots in a glass with a little water. When people came over their reaction was “Does that work? I didn’t know you could do that! OMG that’s awesome!” Like it was some revelation. This is when I realised I wasn’t the only dope out there and people just do what their parents did, just ’cause.
But seriously if they stopped to think, what’s the best way to store this? Even thinking about it for 2 seconds, they would’ve come to the same conclusion.
Think. It’s really simple right? And it doesn’t hurt. You actually grow new neural pathways and the more ideas you connect, the more physical connections you’ll grow in your brain and it actually feels good. Not just that, the more connections you make, the faster you make them and you end up doing things that other people will perceive as really smart. Except it’s not really that “smart”, it’s just that they haven’t thought… at all.
That’s what makes you human – your ability to formulate ideas, to connect ideas, to ask questions and find the answers, to draw conclusions, to go off on tangents and then find a connection that makes you realise it wasn’t a tangent after all. Why choose to receive, accept, regurgitate when you have the internet now and can get so many different perspectives and ideas?!
Stop just accepting and start thinking!
Receive, research, ponder, tinker, experiment, make connections, solve problems, draw conclusions, ask more questions. Choose what to accept, what to reject and if you reject then find new answers, find new ways, reinvent.
Descartes said, “I think therefore I am”. I am aware therefore I exist.
I’ll add to that and say, “I think because I can.” My awareness comes from my ability to be aware. Where does my ability to be aware come from? My awareness of it.
With greater awareness comes greater ability and with greater ability comes greater awareness. We cannot merely exist. We must evolve. Thinking is how we exist and how we evolve.
So don’t reduce our species to be mere processors. We are more than that. Help our species evolve! “Come on chickens! THINK!”