I was all set to submit a new entry on my blog when the Santa Rosa/Sonoma/Napa fires unleashed their hellish fury. I had family affected and evacuated, and family fighting on the fire lines. It really did give me something to think about and especially to worry about. It was a very tender and tenuous time for many, and my heart and prayers go out to all who suffered and lost their homes. It was the worst of nightmares unfolding in real time and certainly underscored the fragility and temporal nature of life. As I sat safe in my apartment, I had plenty of time to think about things and to also count my many blessings. I am humbled beyond measure.
I called my husband in Palm Desert after things simmered down and said, “Wow, remember how we thought about retiring to Lake County and how that got hit by fires? And then I had some regrets about not looking into Santa Rosa for retirement, and that got hit by fires! Wow, I’m feeling a little lucky to be where we are.” And my pragmatic husband shot back, without losing a beat: “Yes, but we are overdue for an earthquake.” No matter where we are, the west coast, east coast, mid-west, in the mountains, on the sea, we never know what can happen from minute to minute; so, I consider the words my son expressed last night to his three sons and myself as we all broke bread together: “Fear not, for we know and trust that God exists and has our back and a better world waits for us one day, but live life now and never let fear be the driver of your car!”
Which brings me to the word “think” and what I had wanted to write about. I had recently seen a billboard in San Francisco that read:
“No one ever said Just Think It”
“In Doers We Trust”
I blinked a couple of times to make sure I read that right as something caused me to feel a bit uneasy about those choice of words. Of course, we are all familiar with the major athletic company’s famous motto “Just Do It”, and is there anyone not familiar with the words “In God We Trust”? These were the mental cues I instantaneously received looking at an advertising for a business consulting company.
But is it true that no one ever said “Just Think It”? Really?
How often did I hear the words “think before you speak” while growing up? More times than I really care to admit, ha ha. It’s taken six decades for that phrase to penetrate the deeper layers of my stubborn epidermal and subcutaneous fat. 🙂
And can anyone enlighten me, please, how any work of art, invention, creation, poem or story arrives on the scene without “thinking it” first? Everything, I mean everything, begins with a thought.
Perhaps parents can relate to the phrase “don’t even think about it” as they gaze in the eyes of a mischievous youngster who hasn’t even begun to move, yet the eyes reveal some kind of thought and plan brewing in their precious little craniums. I am reminded of a cute family story: I can even now see the bright and big inquisitive brown eyes of a toddler watching a fan go round and round. My grandson at an early age loved mechanical thing and fans were his obsession, in addition to the tumbling, rolling, turning innards of a “front loading” washing machine or dryer. I kid you not. As I held him in my arms and his eyes turned towards the ceiling fan, I could see, taste, hear and smell his thoughts first and then he uttered the words that still send us into spasms of deep belly laughs. Speaking of himself in third person and with all the seriousness of a college professor intoned: “Go ahead, Donovan, you can do it, you can touch the fan. It’s okay.” His mother had repeatedly told him that he couldn’t touch fans and that he better stop thinking about or asking about it. I don’t even think he was two years old, and he was smart as a whip, but Mom wasn’t around, so the little brown-haired, brown-eyed tyke took advantage of an opportunity to sway Nana. I can’t remember what happened next, if he touched the fan or not, but that sweet moment of an innocent speaking in third-person about himself, curious about mechanical wonders, will stay with me forever until I take my last breath.
But I digressed with a cute family story. To continue, I take issue with that billboard message, I would encourage everyone to think. And as opposed to “in doers we trust”, I am rather old fashioned in that I still cling to that old standby “In God We Trust”. I am working at pausing, thinking and creating space so that a power greater than myself has an opportunity to come on in and lend inspiration as to the next right step. I’m not so sure I am going to put my trust in doers who have not had some thoughtful thoughts first. Believe you me, it’s been a disaster when I’ve acted first, and thought later. Ha ha.
Once upon a time, a good friend sent me the book “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen. It was published in the early 20th century and is still in print and I’m sure its perennial wisdom still applies today. Good wisdom never goes out of fashion. After receiving that little book, I had a delightful moment of serendipity one morning as I walked into a San Francisco coffee shop and saw a group of Japanese businessmen waiting in line. For some reason, my eyes zoomed to a little booklet one of the gentlemen was holding in his hand. Sure enough, it was James Allen’s book, and a smile of deeper knowing crossed my face.
Here is quote from that book that possibly merits deeper thought and contemplation:
“As you cannot have a sweet and wholesome abode unless you admit the air and sunshine freely into your rooms, so a strong body and a bright, happy, or serene countenance can only result from the free admittance into the mind of thoughts of joy and good will and serenity.”
Inside my desk drawer, I have a sticky note with five letters: T H I N K
It’s an acronym that is used in 12 Steps quite often, and for each letter the following words are suggested for reflection before speaking:
Is it thoughtful?
Is it helpful?
Is it inspiring?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?
I reckon if the majority of us took into consideration these cautionary questions, we might well think into existence a more compassionate and sane world.
I am also reminded of an observation I shared with an acquaintance who was feeling sorry for himself. Since the behavior and attitude exhibited was something that occurred on a regular basis, I suddenly felt a powerful urge to not feed it nor encourage it, so I simply offered the following:
“How we think about ourselves is not only important, it is crucial!”
Those were the words of my own book of wisdom earned through the school of hard self knocks. I used to say things to myself such as “you idiot!” and other atrocious self-trash-talk, and then I read an article in a golf magazine (of all places) that really helped me to think about what I was thinking and helped shed some very helpful light. In the article, a pro golfer opined that if he had a caddy who said horrible things to him such as “You Idiot!,” what would he do? Why, he would fire that caddy on the spot! So why would he talk to himself that way? Can we in turn speak to ourselves in kinder and gentler terms and tones, and treat ourselves as our own best friend? It simply takes a pause, recognition and awareness to retrain the brain and plow new and improved neural pathways. Stinking thinking holds us back and inhibits growth, but learning something as simple as replacing our negative thoughts with more positive ones can move us closer to self-love, happiness and inner contentment.
If I could, I would sit on a California beach thinking all day long. Listening to the waves, hearing the seagulls squawk overhead, enjoying laughter of children, feeling the warm sand under my feet. In fact I was doing that one day, when I laid back on warm sand and watched cloud movement overhead. The experience inspired something, and all of a sudden words were flowing in my head to describe what I was seeing in the sky – the collision of two cloud banks overhead. I imagined that is how creation began and will end…that which has separated will be joined again. This all happened in my mind until I could put the words down on paper later. But of course the creation of a poetic effort started with a thought. And then I followed it up with a deed, putting it on paper.
So once again I found myself recently driving out of the City by the Bay, and a billboard caught my eye. This time, there was a picture of a man (who looks like some actor I should know but can’t place) and these words were strategically perched by his face:
“I have a thought”
And then those dreaded words were inserted farther down on the billboard, from that same consulting company: In Doers We Trust.
Oh no, there we go again!
I’ll just end with a thought experiment – have we as a society placed too much emphasis on doing, running around, filling our calendars, taking too much pride in our deeds instead of taking time out for contemplation and asking ourselves, “do I really want to do this” or “should I really be doing this or that?” If we leave the answer up to the business consultants, then forget about thought… get out there and just DO. Because thinking about something first is no longer considered laudable. We want the doers! We don’t want Socrates, Aristotle, or Marcus Aurelius because they wasted their time thinking too much.
Take it from someone who used to act first, think later: it’s really not worth the pain.
May you be happy, sit on a serene beach and have some time to think.