From a series of notes to myself written during May 2018.
There's a need to think quite differently.
What I believe I know about thinking is quite inaccurate and formed around a part of thinking that is really quite primitive.
Thinking ought to have the freedom to it that carries no predetermined results within it. It should not be contaminated by confirmation bias; it should be allowed to manifest by itself, without being stuck in the repetitive modes that it usually finds itself exercising. What I think of as my ordinary thinking is what the Buddhists call “turning thought”; really, it is just the engine that provides movement for thinking, which keeps itself in what we would call the idle position by spinning around aimlessly with whatever material happens to be immediately at hand.
Obviously, an engine that is idling can’t provide much impulse to life. It is always ready; but the energy in it is weak. The gears it has at its disposal rarely engage. Instead, there is a pointless busyness, which I accept as a given without looking any further.
There is a place within thinking that is quite still and is just as organic as my sensation. I often don't have an experience of this place. It's not a complex place with an extraordinary number of sophisticated ideas and relationships iterated in it. We all do have such places — and intellectuals have places of this kind which are much stronger and more impressive than others — but the place I'm speaking of is a place that is actually, if you will, quite empty.
It's highly intelligent; but it's not cluttered with facts or metaphors, nor does it work with them directly. It may produce facts and metaphors; but this is not its primary function. As with the rest of being, its primary function is to enter relationship in an intelligent way. And that actually doesn’t have anything to do with the enormous pile of facts that I can fill myself with, rearrange, explain, and emphasizing my exchanges with others.
This primary function of thinking I speak of, which — oddly, I am sure you are thinking — is an emptiness or stillness, has a silence in it that is prepared to think but does not do so unless it is necessary.
This silence lies at the root of all thinking within life, but it is passive, not active. If the silence is allowed to open even a small window on the rest of the activity within life that involves thinking and being, it receives life in a different way than the other parts of thinking. This can be called the organic intellect of being. It is a companion to the organic sensation of being. Already, if it becomes active, it represents a more focused, intense, and intelligent force of thought — emptied of the usual nonsense — than anything I bring to life with my ordinary thinking parts.
It's alive; it's active. If it arises and participates, only then am I thinking differently.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.