Robert Frost (on (not)thinking)

“Thinking isn’t agreeing or disagreeing. That’s voting.

Robert Frost, 1874-1963, American poet, in a quote I’ve saved for years.* It makes for a fine back-to-the-future companion to my own, decidedly-less-concise March ’13 ramblings about the nature of thinking and not-thinking, here. I fear that our predominant culture — infotainment, media saturation, the obsession with the unimportant — makes the mature arts of reflection and profound knowing ever more difficult to cultivate. The Baha’is are doing some wonderful grassroots work to counter this tendency. The more I think about it, the more revolutionary, counter-cultural and necessary it appears. I don’t know much about the great Frost’s spiritual inclinations, but I think he’d dig the methodology, the “promises to keep / And miles to go before I sleep / And miles to go before I sleep”.

* Faithful readers of this site may have noticed that I’m gradually re-posting quotes that appeared over the years on the earlier incarnation of, and we’re up to 2010 already as of March 9, 2013. Hurray!

Are You Thinking Yet?

How do we know when we’re actually thinking? Someone once said that if you don’t know a second language, you can never know whether you are thinking or simply replaying a skull-encased recording of other people’s views, Coke jingles, cultural driftwood and stale tales that pass from gossip to “common sense”. But I speak a second language and shards of other ones, and while I love to find the way another coding system expresses an idea or an action, I don’t think that mental access to another manner of speaking is any guarantee of thought, either.

All this in light of the Robert Frost quote I recently found — “to learn to write is to learn to have ideas” — and use in every class and in my own auto-peptalks. Sometimes — I think — I come closest to genuine thinking when I’m writing. How can I know what I think ’til I see what I’ve said? (Somebody. Another orphan quote.) And maybe the repeated citation of other people’s bons mots is also a sure way to avoid original thought. But I doubt that. (!)