Thinking is easy (or is it?)
Quick quiz: What philosopher said, “To think is easy, to act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult of all.”? Answer… None. I pulled that quote out of a fortune cookie at lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. Not bad for a fortune cookie!
I experienced an existential moment of synchronicity as just that morning I was reading some of the most influential thinkers in history in preparation for my J-term philosophy course. I was reminded again about what deep thinkers those early philosophers were. Deep thinking leads to deep thoughts and powerful ideas. Those early thinkers continue to be influential:
Socrates gave us the Socratic method of teaching, one of the most powerful dialogical learning methods still used today.
Plato’s *Dialogue* is still a must-read, and his questions about nature vs. nurture, the nature of epistemology, and the question of what constitutes an ideal government are issues we continue to struggle with today.
Aristotle was the first empiricist, a philosophical stance that continues to find expression in educational systems and in the debate and questions of faith and science.
Sophocles was a playwright who (like Shakespeare, H. P. Lovecraft, Phillip K. Dick, R. A. Lafferty, and Harlan Ellison) just about every modern film, movie, novel, or short story can find its seed of origin.
Pythagoras I personally blame for my failing Algebra twice (I took his word that there are no such things as irrational numbers, or at least, they should not be taught to children).
Democritus is the deep thinker who was the first to argue that all things are made up of atoms, before 370 B.C.!
Heroclotus and Thucydides gave us history as a new form and discipline.
Deep thinking leads to deep thoughts and powerful ideas. And I think trivial thinking leads to trivial thoughts. How are you approaching teaching about faith in your context? Do your church’s bible studies, book studies, and adult learning opportunities provide opportunities for critical thinking? How about teaching adolescents and children? Do you offer the challenge of formative deep thinking, or do you lean toward entertaining and affirming what they already believe?
Learning is formative. What kind of Christian disciples are you forming?
Next time you’re with a group of people, discern whether they are engaged in conversations of deep thoughts and powerful ideas, or trivial thought and banal ideas. If it’s true that we are known by the company we keep, consider if it’s time to get a new set of friends.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.
His books on education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).