Think Deeply (Part 2 of 3)



Think Deeply (Part 2 of 3)

I have a graphic on my computer desktop that says: “Words” mean “Things”.

Our three carefully chosen phrases, Listen Well, Think Deeply, Live Authentically serve as statements of the shared values each of us seek to demonstrate in our everyday lives. Each statement is both simple and profound.

In this short series we are going to explore what each statement means to us. We will try and keep it real and honest, because there is no right answer, and none of us are claiming to be experts.

What does thinking deeply mean to us?

I used to think the answer to this question was to read more theology. But the books I was reading were more about providing approved answers for those already gathered than asking searching questions of relevance to the wider world. My answer to the question below indicates that, although I love theology, I think we use its resources and insights wrongly. The letter of James makes it clear that we are not approved by God for believing the right things, but for living out what we say we believe. So, for me, thinking deeply begins, not by asking the 'what' questions, but the 'why' and 'how' ones.

I think I've always had an enquiring mind, particularly in relation to people, both individuals, groups and societies. It was Einstein who said that , “The important thing is to never stop questioning.“ Through my faith I have developed an innate sense of asking ‚‘Why?‘. For me the why question is often more important than the what? where? who? and when? I'm not sure if that's rooted in philosophy, psychology, theology, sociology, psychotherapy or just being curious. We live in an age that is so saturated with superficiality. For me exploring what is beneath the surface of things, helps me to search for what is true or false. We live in a society that is increasingly being deceived, influenced and shaped by propaganda, lies and manipulation. It's imperative that we think deeply. I cannot disassociate my loving God and my neighbour from thinking well. Thinking the wrong way about God, neighbour and ourselves leads us and the world astray.

For me "thinking deeply" is integrated with the whole of who I am and not only using the cognitive ability of my mind. Amazingly, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, spirit, mind, soul and body. I am stirred in my senses by what I see with my eyes and hear with my ears. One of the gifts of being human is to be able to experience an enormous range of emotions, the primary emotions being joy, anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and surprise. So when thinking deeply, its more than my mind reading words on a page or hearing an orator speak. Vision and internal vision can be a window to think deeply. What comes to mind is what I witnessed visually in Israel in visiting Vad Yeshem, the Holocaust Memorial, the Children Memorial. I can't rationally get my mind around the ideology and propaganda of Nazi Germany. I am disturbed in my spirit, mind, soul and body. It touches me with a call to action, to pray and consider my unconscious biases, my desire for power and control in small ways and living selfishly or indifferent. Thinking deeply requires a response.

How do we see Jesus thinking deeply in the Gospels?

This question is tricky to get our heads around because the gospels make it clear that Jesus wasn't an academic, he hadn't been schooled within the rabbinical system and he made little attempt to go head-to-head with the theologians of his day. Jesus was dipping more deeply into a different well. The most profound example of Jesus thinking deeply is found in John 13 when he washes the disciples' feet. In verses 1-3 we learn that Jesus "knew" two things, and also that Judas had been tempted to betray him. The beginning of verse 4 begins with the word "so". Read the passage and ask yourself whether that equation makes any sense according to any logic you have been taught.

I see Jesus thinking deeply and acting wisely, the origins of which are found in his relationship with the father. There is an incident in John 8 where the religious leaders of the day were trying to trap Jesus. His response sees him doodling, scribbling on the ground and out of the silence, he speaks wisdom. He confounds and challenges those who came to accuse and at the same time he speaks peace and healing to the victim that they were using to try and trap him.

I see Jesus thinking deeply in the Garden of Gethsemane. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus was in a pivotal moment thinking deeply about what was before him, being betrayed, facing death on the Cross. This account show the integrated and whole experience of Jesus, in his spirit, mind, soul and body.

In what ways do we struggle to think deeply?

When I think I already know the answer.

Ditto! plus those occasions when I simply can't be bothered or haven't the energy to think about something too deeply.

Ditto twice! Plus when I over think something.

Is there anything we have learned recently that is helping us to think deeply more effectively?

I subscribed to the New Statesman four years ago and read it avidly every week because it keeps my mind sharp. It helps me grapple with the big questions and many of its writers are pre-eminent in their respective fields of knowledge.

I enjoy and am enriched by debate and discussion with others, particularly if there is diversity of people and perspectives. I find it really important to read those who take a contrary view to my own as well as those who reflect or affirm my own opinions and outlooks. Whilst I love and appreciate the Scriptures and the writings of Christian thinkers I do not confine myself to religious perspectives.

I often purchase The Week as it summarises the previous week's news. I also enjoy BBC Sounds, Radio 4 Today, Beyond Belief and other podcasts. They often have a handful of guests from different cultural backgrounds and points of view. This helps me to think deeper, hear other perspectives and gain understanding. My recent visual learning experiences are various videos from the Bible Project (Link here) and visiting the Lindisfarne Gospels in Newcastle at the Laing Gallery (Link Here) The animated storytelling in the entrance space is amazing and effective in helping me to think deeper about the Celtic Saints. Wandering missionaries, they were a hardy lot! Lastly, the Advent Calendar that I receive by email each year (Link here)

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This is a combined article with inputs from all members of the collective.

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