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The risks and potentials of thinking

Paul Grobstein's picture

"Serendip is a gathering place for people who suspect that life's instructions are always ambiguous and incomplete ... an expanding forum and a continually developing set of resources to explore and support intellectual and social change ... in how one makes sense of life" .... Serendip home page

An interesting/satisfying Serendip couple of days ... 

"Every thought has already been thought. Every understanding has at one time been understood. There is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes) Doesn't all this philosophy just make you feel dead? ... Serendip forum post, 14 Feb

Don't you feel a deep form of despair in thinking that there is no purpose in your life but to ever-so-slightly help the human race evolve (and for what reason evolve?)? ... Serendip forum post, 14 Feb

Thank you so much for your article "Making the Unconscious Conscious, and Vice Versa: A Bi-directional Bridge Between Neuroscience/Cognitive Science and Psychotherapy?" ... [I] felt like exploring more about if it was really necessary to make all unconscious 'stories' conscious and if it is really beneficial or just a way of creating work for ourselves to feel more "in control" of our lives and fate etc ... your article ... was exactly what i was looking for. I have been part of process workshops, behavior science labs and have only recently begun to explore the meaning of all this.   Paraphrasing Descartes, one might say "I am, and I can think, therefore I can change who I am."  -  This summed it up for me .... Letter to Serendip, 15 Feb

All of which reminds me of

"Thinking IS dangerous, and risky, and lots of the time what you come up with won't be better than what you have already. But that's not the point, unless you're so happy with what you have that you can't imagine it ever being better, and so certain it will never change that you don't even worry about it ... The point is that thinking, and being able to think, is the only way to make anything BETTER than it is, and sure there's a risk in that but its a hell of a lot better then sitting in one place and trying to hold everything together, particularly when it isn't really quite what you want and you know damned well that its all going to come apart one way or another anyhow." ... Not Just My Problem, Friend

and of a recent article in the NYTimes which quotes a 2005 essay in Bookforum by Ronald Aronson

"A new atheism must absorb the experience of the twentieth century and the issues of the twenty-first. It must answer questions about living without God, face issues concerning forces beyond our control as well as our own responsibility, find a satisfying way of thinking about what we may know and what we cannot know, affirm a secular basis for morality, point to ways of coming to terms with death, and explore what hope might mean today. The new atheists have made a beginning, but much remains to be done."

Atheist or not, we all need to find/create better ways to deal with uncertainty about our lives and our place in the universe.  Uncertainty can foster feelings of purposelessness and meaninglessness, but it can equally be the seen as the opening that empowers us to create meaning and purpose ourselves, individually and collectively.  Perhaps "There is nothing new under the sun" isn't quite right?  There is ourselves, our lives, and what we make of them. 

For more along these lines, see

Let's keep thinking ...


Paul Grobstein's picture

serendip: thinking/exchange

Some notes for myself, anyone else interested, of additional encouraging examples of thinking/exchange by Serendip visitors ...

  • "One person who reacted to this article said that she wanted to feel at peace with other cultures. I simply want to feel other cultures—they fascinate me, they inspire me, they make me want to learn more and more about people as individuals." ... Anonymous (5 March 2009)