When We Stop Thinking

Something has happened, and few are thinking about it.

We live in a time of more books, movies, and accumulated knowledge than ever. The world should be ripe for thoughtful discussion, yet nuanced ideas are in short supply, if not dangerous. 

Not necessarily a danger of physical harm, but sleepless nights, depression, and anxiety. Lost personal connections, too.

We don’t want to look outside after dark. I’m not speaking of the time when the sun goes down. Instead, differences among friends and relatives who we believe have gone over the edge.

It doesn’t matter what side. Neither tribe (and maybe more than two) takes enough time to move beyond surfaces.

When a statement conflicts with our beliefs in conversation or public debate, friction starts and sometimes stops in two seconds. Our brains turn on the mute.

Better not to think about it, some would say. Better to search for distractions. Better to rely on authorities we believe in, news outlets who echo only what pleases us, and topics unlikely to cause trouble at work or home.

The current remedy is to grasp simple answers acceptable to the folks we live near, attend our church, and like our spouse.

Of course, there are other things to think about. Getting the groceries, raising the kids, saving money, and looking forward to a Saturday night date.

Are the Chicago Cubs a lousy baseball outfit? At least, that is something about which we can agree.

But the questions don’t go away because we don’t want to enter the dark space inside or outside ourselves.

My take is that while some of the “other guys” are opportunistic and deceitful or worse, not all are, and not everyone on our team is pure. Nor am I always a paragon of virtue.

The talking heads have mostly made up their minds and ours along with theirs.

I like to learn more than what a closed mind offers.

It won’t take you very far to think that the other party or clan is full of stupid or evil people. Better to ask why they take the positions they do and what is important to them and read books that tell us things we don’t know.

In other words, get past comfortable explanations to those that might enlighten us.

And, once we’ve thought through the present and learned the unsettling lessons of human history and experience, to take responsibility.

Consider action intended to make the world better for everybody, not just your team, club, party, religion, race, country, gender, or tribe. That’s where the best possible future is to be found.

But first, you must focus, ask questions beyond what you are told, and move past the madness of the crowd.


The late 19th-century painting by José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior is Girl with a Book. The bottom image is Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Tower of Babble. Both are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

15 thoughts on “When We Stop Thinking

  1. I went to a lecture about Steve Jobs a few weeks ago. the lecturer was so excited about everything that Jobs had unleashed. I had another reaction. We are living in a trance. Caused by an endless series of distractions. Just like you discuss in your thoughtful blog. Thanks Gerry.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Better to ask why they take the positions they do and what is important to them and read books that tell us things we don’t know.” It seems like if we can stay rooted in curiosity instead of judgment, we have a better chance of getting to know the “other guys.”

    Interesting and thought-provoking post, Dr Stein! And so timely for our political cycle.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Wynne. I agree we must begin from the point of thoughtful consideration, knowledge, and understanding. From that place, in any well-functioning civil society, judgment also has an essential role: to insure public safety and mete out justice to the extent the law requires.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I just read a somewhat similar post on why we should get away from spending useless time on news and social media and read books on theology for fun. Rather than getting irate at folks that think differently, dive into the literature and see how nuanced theology is. And realize there are fewer certainties than we may have glommed onto. Thanks for this broader look at how we spend our time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your thoughts, Lois. I know you are someone who has taken charge of and taken on difficult challenges. Part of our dilemma, I think, is that too many are waiting for a savior in this life, not at the end of it. Their inaction permits some dark possibilities when some others, less well-intentioned, have other plans.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. There’s so much happening in our world that it’s difficult to take it all in. It’s so much easier not to think about it, than “to enter the dark space inside or outside ourselves.” Where there’s lots of money to be made, truth will be held captive and distorted. Until it is too late to avoid the disaster, as we’re witnessing right now in Florida following the devastation of Hurricane Ian.


    • An unfortunate complication, as you say, Rosaliene. The weight of information requires us to sift out what is essential and what isn’t; no easy task. Indeed, we see this in the medical profession, where specialization grows because even the best general practitioner is taxed to keep up. Money, prestige, applause, and power lure many. But, thank goodness, not the good folks like you.


  5. We all need those breaks, Lois. The challenge is to keep enough engagement to be useful. I don’t have a foolproof method, but my wife and I have done our best to understand things and do some good — some of the time.


  6. Thank you for another great post, Dr. S! Your post reminds me of diversity training, inclusivity, culture competence, and acceptance of others who differ in one way or another. It also reminds me to put aside my biases as well as to evaluate them.


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