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The Importance of Thinking Regularly April 21, 2009

Posted by wrivkin in General Creative Thinking.
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About three to four thousands years ago my very distant ancestor Avram Ivri, who lived then in the Kingdom of Babylon and whose name meant  ‘a man from the other side of the Euphrates’  started experiencing a deep spiritual crisis. He suddenly felt that he cannot consider clay-made figures to be mighty gods anymore.  He had seen enough of them cracked in the oven or broken by an unlucky movement or a gust of wind. Everybody else had seen this as well, but somehow it did not bother them. These totems had been a part of their religion and culture for so long that nobody seemed (or everybody was afraid) to be bothered by their obvious insignificance.

So, where is the force that rules everything, thought Avram?  Is it the wind? However it seems to change depending on the season and the time of the day. Then, is it the Sun, which defines both the former and the latter?  That answer was good enough for the people of the whole neighboring empire, Egypt, but Avram rejected it after some consideration. After all didn’t the Sun, the Moon, and the stars regularly and predictably move across the sky, definitely obeying some higher order?

As Avram says in Thomas Mann’s novel ‘Josef and His Brothers’, “I, Avram, being a Human, must strive for the very highest”. Thus, the false idols preventing humankind from moral and intellectual advancement were destroyed, and the enormous idea of the single, almighty, invisible and eternal God was born.

This is an extreme example of independent and dissident thinking. We obviously do not need to put such an intellectual effort into trying to disprove every idea. After all, we are standing on the shoulders of giants like Avram, who we know now as Abraham; we can and should rely on some proven moral and intellectual truths, upon which our very civilization is based. It does not even matter whether we believe in Avram’s God or not, because it is this objective moral law that He put into our souls that makes Avram’s intellectual leap the irrefutable basis for our very existence.

If we thoroughly understand the validity of certain truths and their boundaries, we can stop spending our time trying to doubt them and concentrate on the new challenges that progress poses us every day. This is why, for example, we have stopped researching Newton’s mechanics, the boundaries of which we know, but not those of Einstein, the boundaries of which we do not know. Otherwise, we can never progress in our knowledge.

However, the opposite is even worse. If we stop investigating a field that is not deeply understood and well-defined yet, if we are satisfied with half-baked guesses and stop searching for real, profound knowledge and understanding, then all our efforts are worth as much as a prayer to clay idols. In this case we have the illusion of progress when in fact we are just wandering in twilight.

When our culture rewarded profound, unorthodox, and innovative thinking, we invented the car and the airplane.  When our culture started rewarding clichés and loyal intellectual numbness, we lost our ability to make the best cars or airplanes in the world.

We live now in a country where the previous, half-witted government wishfully thought that it is enough to give a mortgage to anyone who asks for it, and we would have a whole nation of home-owners gratefully voting for them forever; where half-witted citizens wishfully thought that it is OK to pile up debts without ever considering how to pay them back; where half-witted managers of financial institutions didn’t even think of such an improbable possibility as low-income clients ceasing to pay their bills; and where the new half-witted government wishfully thinks that every problem can be solved by printing enough green paper with presidents on it and telling everybody what to do.

We live in a country where CIOs think that CEOs value them very highly and consider their I.T. departments as the company’s best asset.

We live in a country where creators of the movie ‘Idiocracy’ wishfully thought that they fantasize about very improbable future.

We must stop this. We must stop letting these salesmen from TV or IT magazines think for us. We must stop considering the very process of thinking as a dirty, hard physical job we would prefer to ousource to a third-world country. We must start trying to think for ourselves again, first once or twice a week, then more often. We can do it. Yes, we can!

Then we must start trying to think deeply, innovatively, unorthodoxically. We can do it, we still have these genes! Then one day one of us will say:

“I, Avram, being a Human, must strive for the very highest”.

And then we can discuss Enterprise Architecture…

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