Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.
- Henry Ford
Source: The Spectator 6 June 1998
Are YOU a Problem Thinker?
It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then to loosen up. Inevitably though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.
I began to think alone - "to relax," I told myself. But I knew it wasn't true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time.
I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't stop myself.
I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here?"
Things weren't going so great at home either. One evening I had turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother's.
I soon had a reputation as a heavy thinker. One day the boss called me in. He said, "Skippy, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking on the job, you'll have to find another job." This gave me a lot to think about.
I came home early after my conversation with the boss. "Honey," I confessed, "I've been thinking..."
"I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!"
"But Honey, surely it's not that serious."
"It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver. "You think as much as college professors, and college professors don't make any money, so if you keep on thinking we won't have any money!"
"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently, and she began to cry. I'd had enough. "I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door.
I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche, with NPR on the radio. I roared into the parking lot and ran up to the big glass doors... they didn't open. The library was closed.
To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night.
As I sank to the ground clawing at the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye. "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked. You probably recognise that line. It comes from the standard Thinker's Anonymous poster.
Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was Porky's. Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting.
I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home. Life just seemed... easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking.
Are You a Thinker about Problems?
Many years ago in a small Indian village, a farmer had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to a village moneylender. The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the farmer's beautiful daughter so he proposed a bargain. He said he would forgo the farmer's debt if he could marry his daughter. Both the farmer and the daughter were horrified by the proposal, so the cunning moneylender suggested that they let Providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. Then the girl would have to pick one pebble from the bag. If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father's debt would be forgiven; if she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her father's debt would still be forgiven; but if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.
They were standing on a pebble-strewn path in the farmer's field. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the bag.
Imagine that you are standing in the field. What would you do if you were the girl? Analysis produces 3 possibilities: she could refuse to take a pebble, she could show that there are two black pebbles in the bag and expose the moneylender as a cheat, or she could pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from debt and imprisonment.
Here is what she did...
The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble. Without Looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles. "Oh, how clumsy of me," she said. "But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I Picked." Since the remaining pebble was black, it must be assumed that she picked the white one. Since the moneylender dared not admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an advantageous one.
Moral: Most complex problems do have a solution if we only stop to think.
You Were Speeding!
Cop: "Excuse me sir, would you mind getting out of your train of thought?"
Guy: "Huh? What?"
Cop: "Where's the big idea sir?"
Guy: "Oh, I'm sorry officer, I don't understand, I was thinking."
Cop: "Yeah, your mind was wandering all over the place. May I see your degree please?"
Guy: "Sure, here."
Cop: "Take it out of the frame."
Guy: "Sorry. It's a community college learner's permit."
Cop: "You need a BA to drive this idea home!"
Guy: "Oh, I... I must have been lateral thinking, and not realised it."
Cop: "Uh huh."
Guy: "See, I had to think fast to get around that mental block back there, and I didn't notice the limits."
Cop: "This degree has expired! I ought to throw the encyclopedia at you."
Guy: "Why? Is this a controlled thought zone?"
Cop: "Yes, it is, sir. See the sign?"
Cop: "Uh huh, you almost collided with established dogma back at those presumptions."
Guy: "I wasn't thinking straight!"
Cop: "I see. Have you been drinking, sir?"
Guy: "A couple of beers, but I'm not illogical!"
Cop: "Well, I should stop your thought process right now, but I'm going to give you a ticket for quick thinking."
Guy: "That's three points off my IQ!!!"
Cop: "And the fine is a penny for your thoughts."
Guy: "I'll get back into the flow of normal thought, officer."
Cop: "Uh huh, you go straight to your inevitable conclusion: it's foregone, you can't miss it."
Cop: "You understand?"
Guy: "Yes. Thank you very much officer."
Cop: "Okay, off with you...
Source: "You Were Speeding" by the Frantics © 1984 CBC radio from the album Frantic Times off the Dr Demento's 30th Anniversary Collection: Dementia 2000 (transcribed and contributed by my son, Wolf - he says some of the songs on there are great, and he should know - he's certainly listened to them enough times)
Don't Get Booked!
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