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Monday, June 8, 2020

Thinking About My Thinking

Of all the personal work I've done over the years since stopping full time work, it's likely I've put the most effort into trying to arrive at my own opinions about stuff. How important is this to you? What strategies have you found to be most effective in doing so?

Despite my efforts, careful examination of my opinions frequently leaves me with a strong sense that many of them continue to be heavily influenced by what I read or hear. This sobering realization is true across several domains but it's most troubling when I recognize the influence writers or other public figures have on my opinions of current events. The undeniable fact is, arriving at one's own opinion about nearly anything is time consuming, hard work. But with current events, that work is made more difficult by the 24/7 news cycle and TVs in every public space, each brimming with the endless chatter of pundits. So far, some things that help me - however marginally - are limiting my media intake, staying mindful about the human tendency to confirm our biases when we screen out information that doesn't support our views, and being honest with myself when I know I'm avoiding doing the time consuming, hard work. That unsparing honesty also helps me feel like I'm retaining a shred of intellectual integrity.

When I'm not motivated to do the work needed to arrive at my own political position or opinion about a current event? I forgive myself. Then I continue attempting to arrive at a reasonably pure opinion of books I read, music I listen to, films I watch. My strategies for those domains include ignoring blurbs and gushing book jackets, tuning out the self-congratulatory buzz surrounding awards and their glitzy sideshows (Grammys, Oscars, etc.), avoiding the Internet. These are baby steps, for sure. But it's possible taking these steps with my passions will lead me to getting better at thinking about my own thinking when it comes to the weightier stuff.       


  1. Thanks for the reminder. I credit you with telling me that you don't read book blurbs or reviews until after you have read the book and made your own assessments. I have adopted that for myself.
    In terms of current events, I do watch some TV but also look for different points of view or approaches. I have found some amazing resources for not only the mind, but body, emotions and spirit!

    1. Ines; Difficult to over-state how grateful I am for the time you take to read my blog and the frequency of your comments. And for this comment an extra thanks giving me "...credit..." for a habit you've since adopted, i.e. avoiding those blurbs etc.

  2. These are good ideas. Thanks, Pat for the ideas. It's becoming more and more difficult to keep a clear head and independent thinking in light of the 24/7 news and self-selecting online media that just confirms what we already believe. I'm glad we both are committed to trying to arrive at thoughtful opinions, even if we are not always successful.

    1. Crowbar: I don't often thank you for your thoughtful comments; my bad. I appreciate that you read my blog even though you often hear me rant about some of the same stuff that I write about here while we're having dinner (or breakfast or lunch, for that matter!) Thanks just the same.