Sunday, June 8

Thinking about thinking, and why thinking is good for us

A friend of mine and I were talking about Fahrenheit 451. She's "reading" it via audiobook and it's the first time she's been exposed to this book. She was commenting on some of Bradbury's insights and perceptions for a book published in 1953. (It had been a while since I read the book, so I checked out the 60th anniversary edition to re-read it and was delighted by the introduction, which was written by the incomparable Neil Gaiman.)

We talked a bit of the context for his writing: post World War II, Korean War, communism, McCarthyism, television (I Love Lucy debuted in 1951; The Today Show first aired in 1952). Catcher in the Rye was published in 1952.

Though she's not yet finished the book, my friend is particularly interested in the perception of thinking--that by eliminating books and by not allowing people to read books they will be happy because they won't think. Bradbury's television was pure pap, sort of like watching today's reality shows when people are more concerned about the Kardashians and the so-called overprivileged housewives of some city than the kidnapped girls of Nigeria or the strife in Syria, Somalia, The Congo and more places than we care to think, perhaps even know.

I get that. I get the escapism of television even though I don't understand the popularity of most "reality" shows.

The collision of thinking (gasp!) occurred when I read another friend's Facebook post about his initial response to the shooting at Seattle Pacific University: how many this time? Not being horrified but the incident; having, in some ways, such a benign response to the violence perpetrated on yet another campus. And by someone who had no connection to the campus but an obsession with Columbine.

I also understand it is easier to bury one's mind and emotions in a television show of few if no intellectually redeeming qualities. I understand it is less taxing emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually to read pulp-like magazines than actual news or actual reports on the social, political, and economic complexities in our world. I understand it is easier to ignore the harsher realities of life than confront them, especially when one feels helpless to do anything about any of those realities.

But then I wonder about the implications of those who can't or won't think for themselves, who accept whatever they read in print or online as "truth" and get angry when others might try to dispute. I wonder if in the absence of thinking--good ol' objective critical thinking--we spiral into silos of ignorance and intolerance.

So keep reading, keep thinking, and keep discussing. That's how we learn from each other, and across the reaches of time and geography.

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