Clear Thinking: Why Most People Do Not Think Clearly?

Clear ThinkingClear thinking is a major factor in a successful life. It is of immense value in day-by-day living and decision-making, saving a person much time and expense.

However, even more importantly, the person who thinks clearly is helped to avoid deceptions and dangers that otherwise easily mislead the unwary. A clear outlook assists him to cope with otherwise thorny problems and situations in life.

Why Most People Do Not Think Clearly

Many people simply passively prefer to let others do their thinking for them. For most, דעריבער, the basic pattern of thinking is largely fixed by the community and the world in which they live. They think and act in a way similar to those around them. Even in relatively minor matters of life this is discernible, as advertising and the mass media dictate their viewpoint. And in major areas of life, the way other people do much of their thinking for them may be illustrated by what occurs in wartime.

When their home country publishes propaganda rallying the population to war, do most people carefully analyze all the issues involved in the conflict? Or, do they just accept what they are told to think? In writing about World War I, the late Winston Churchill observed: “Only a signal is needed to transform these multitudes of peaceful peasants and workmen into the mighty hosts which will tear each other to pieces.” He further observed that, told what to do, most people unthinkingly responded. (The World Crisis, Volume VI, page 93) Twenty-five years later another generation let the same kind of thinking lead them into a far greater conflict, World War II.

What has resulted to many persons because they allowed others to do their thinking for them? Millions have died or been maimed, often fighting wars on foreign soil over issues they did not understand. And now we see that the world’s pattern of thinking, and the efforts it has produced, have brought no lasting peace. In fact, the world is armed with far more devastating weapons today than it ever had before.

But are not some turning against the thinking behind such wars? יאָ, many of the younger generation are rebelling against the “thinking” of their elders. Yet is the outlook of the youthful rebels really any clearer or more satisfying than that from which they seek to flee? Has their rebellion led them to anything truly better?

The “thinking” of world leaders at one extreme, and that of youthful rebels at the other, combine to show that man’s way of thinking is producing no lastingly desirable results. Perhaps you feel compelled to ask, ‘If that is so, then, how is clear thinking possible?

A Definite Goal Needed for Clear Thinking

To learn to think clearly demands, first of all, that one have a purpose or goal in life. Why is that so?

געזונט, journeying through life can be likened to going on a trip; the more certain your destination, the more positive your routing can be. Suppose you live in Madrid (Spain) and you say you are going to Germany. That is a very broad goal and a number of alternate routes present themselves. However, traveling from Madrid to Berlin, Germany, greatly minimizes the number of different roads you might travel; it is a more precise goal. Thus, too, the more definite one’s goal in life, the more stable one’s thinking is likely to be.

Yet, did you know that very few individuals can state simply and clearly just what is their goal in life? A comment by Professor Aaron Levenstein at City College in New York city underscores how purposeless most people’s lives really are:

“People may have a vague understanding of their present position but they cannot make up their minds where they want to go. They live out their lives without a philosophy. They do not succeed in reaching any goal, because they have never set one up.

While it is true, as Professor Levenstein says, that most people have no goal in life, is this not somewhat understandable? What lasting and satisfying goal does any part of the world really offer a person toward which he might guide his thinking?

However, some might ask, does not having a single goal in life result in a person’s having a “closed” mind instead of an “open” one? Let us see.

Usually when people speak of an “open” mind they are simply saying that they are tolerant of another’s views. But merely tolerating another’s views does not really require thinking, does it? In fact, a completely “open” mind could be likened to a pipe that lets just anything flow through it, even sewage. No self-respecting person wants a mind contaminated with garbage. So, he needs to be selective, he needs to sift out what he accepts into his mind. In short, he needs to think. However, he does not want to be so narrow or prejudicial that he refuses to consider facts that can improve his thinking.

A balance in his thinking is therefore necessary. As Professor Levenstein put it: “It is necessary to think both narrowly and broadly.” How do we do this?

The Benefit of Right Standards

By having a standard with which to measure new information presented one can achieve balanced thinking. An individual thereby controls what comes into his mind and is not diverted from achieving his goal, yet he does not close out worthwhile new information.

Every day the clear-thinking person must filter or screen out that which is wrong and to which his mind is properly “closed.” Constant bombardment of propaganda from the public press, newspapers and magazines, as well as by books, television and radio programs, make this more essential now than ever before.

Of course, much that is published today immediately shows itself to be unworthy of one’s attention. Novels, plays, or television programs, for instance, that glorify sexual perversion, immorality or violence are among these. Catering to base desires, their purpose is usually to discourage worthwhile thinking, really numbing the mind in favor of unthinking passion.

But even those books and programs from which one does gain some useful information require the exercise of caution. They often subtly reveal a wrong trend of thinking, perhaps being influenced by unproved theories. Thus some publications on child care, history, natural science, archaeology, medicine, psychology, grade-school textbooks etc, make allusion to or presuppose evolution to be a “fact” when discussing their varied subjects. Here, particularly, the “open-minded” person must exercise caution when reading if he is to avoid being adversely influenced or, as some first-century proponents of wrong doctrine were described, becoming “mentally diseased.”

Are you learning to think clearly? You have made a fine start if you have a definite goal in life and if you have a standard by which to judge new information brought to your attention. But you might say, ‘I do have a goal in life and a standard. It is not these big things that boggle my thinking. גאַנץ, the multitude of small daily decisions—these are what confuse me. How can I bestir my thinking faculties to cope with these smaller daily cares in the most efficient manner?

My response/view to this question would be publish on 1st April 2012. Do check back. 🙂


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