MY WIFE, GAIL, AND I WERE BROWSING IN AN OLD bookstore one day looking for those special titles among second-hand books that are such a delight when found. Gail found a copy of a biography of Daniel Webster that had been published in the 1840s. It looked interesting, and since we are lovers of biographies, she purchased the book.
The cover of the book appeared worn enough to convey the notion that it had been well read. One could imagine that it had been a prized edition in the library of several generations of a
Not so! When Gail began to leaf through the old book, she discovered that the printer had failed to properly cut the pages, and many of them could not be opened until one took a blade and cut them apart. The uncut pages were clear evidence that the book had never been read! It looked on the outside as if it had been constantly used. But if it had, it was only in gracing a library shelf, or playing doorstop, or providing height to a small child so that he could sit and reach the table while he ate. The book may have been used, but it certainly had never been read.
The Christian who is not growing intellectually is like a book whose many pages remain unopened and unread. Like the book, he may be of some value, but not nearly as much as if he had chosen to sharpen and develop his mind.
As a body grows flabby when it is not exposed to physical labour or challenging exercise, so the mind weakens, gets out of shape, when it is not given proper training. I'd never really given much thought to thinking as a discipline until I read an old book (1928) by a French writer, Ernest Dimnet, called The Art of Thinking. I love these lines of his. When you read them, remember ... they are almost seventy-five years old.
Enter Thinker. We have all seen him standing amidst the surprised, incredulous and often silly group of non-thinkers. Sometimes he is a very simple man, the roadside mechanic slowly walking out of his garage. Round the car two or three men, hot with ineffective guessing, are still talking excitedly when the taciturn man appears; for an hour they have talked, tried and failed. They stop and not another word is heard. The intelligent eyes of the artisan, helped by his seeming infallible hands, go over the organs of the machine; meanwhile we know that his mind is going over dozens of hypotheses which to us are only riddles. Soon the trouble is found. Sometimes the man smiles. At what? At whom? I often wonder. At any rate we have felt the presence of a brain.
Dimnet has other examples, but I love this one best of all. How clever! A mechanic as a thinker. I would never have thought of it as an example. But it is wonderful. And I can picture all the other "know-it-alls" standing around, quiet in their incredulity. "We have felt the presence of a brain, " he said. No harm reading a masterful sentence twice.
"The thinker," Dimnet later wrote,
... is pre-eminently a [person] who sees where others do not. The novelty of what he says, its character as a sort of revelation, the charm that attaches to it, all come from the fact that he sees. He seems to be head and shoulders above the crowd, or to be walking on the ridgeway while others trudge at the bottom.
In his best days, this was what Solomon must have been. A man who looked into things seeking meaning. One who could put ideas together and come up with sensible conclusions. One who loved the stuff of creation and wasn't afraid to search out the knowledge of it.
[Solomon] spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom. (1 Kings 4:32-34)
How do we encourage the development of people like this? People of substance who speak thoughtfully. Who do not capitulate to shallow ideas. Who are not intellectually lazy, living under the dominance of other, more strident minds. Who are able to search the nooks and crannies of possibilities and summon deep judgement. Who are not captive to ideologies that leave no room for independent conclusions or actions.
Extracted from Gordon MacDonald's Ordering Your Private World.