Thursday, May 15, 2014

Reflecting in the Ruckus

A friend recently recounted a story the other day in which her husband was outside working on his truck. The story was not about the truck or about her husband particularly but I remarked at how cool it was that her man was able to work both on humans and machines, he being a surgeon. 

She agreed saying that really it was all about systems. Systems in a truck that had to function together were very like systems in the body that had to do the same.  I told her that I’d never before thought about that and it made perfect sense to me. Our conversation shortly returned to our kids and then lapsed into silence as we turned our attentions to the ball field. 

“I said that about the truck,” she explained, “because I’d been thinking about it the other day…how it all really came down to systems…I didn’t just come up with that.” She said it as if I might think her odd for having such a deep conclusion about a truck motor. I nodded and said again that it made a world of sense.

She need not have worried. I was not thinking her the least bit odd. I was thinking how wonderful it was that she’d taken the time and mental energy to think about such things at all especially as a busy young mamma of little children. 

Days later I came across a book which perfectly articulated why my friend’s deep thinking seemed so remarkable. 

The author of the book pointed out that we do not take time to simply think about things anymore. The simple practice of reflection just isn’t …practiced! 

The book I was reading is called “A Mind For God” written by James Emery White who posits:

“…we tend to make immediate assessments about things—which can lead to responding without thinking on things that need to be thought about. Henri Nouwen insightfully wonders if the fact that so may people ask … counsel from so many other people is not, in large port, due to having lost contact with the practice of such reflection….”as if one half of the world is asking advice of the other half while both sides are sitting in the same darkness.”

When is the last time I reflected on something purposely? Oh sure, I have thoughts that flit and float about my brain but like butterflies in a garden, hardly lighting on one thought long enough to “bring some kind of realization—an aha moment.” To mull a thought over and over and come to a conclusion is not a regular practice of mine. 

James Emery White says that “In order to nurture the life of the mind, we much protect the time it takes to practice it.” He says that this doesn’t mean merely taking in information but to actually reflect on the information we have consumed. 

I realize that reflection will not happen while the TV is blaring while I wash dishes. It will absolutely happen while I wash dishes with the TV off. Reflection can even happen while folding clothes unless, as is my habit, I accomplish the chore in the company of a podcast or a rerun of a favorite show online. 

You might be wondering how one can reflect at all with a house full of children… I’ve learned that if the kids see me folding laundry or washing dishes with no television or other form of entertainment involved, they will 100% of the time make a fast exit and will remain elsewhere for an eternity leaving all the time in the world to reflect!

“[Reflection] brings a sensitivity, an awareness of things. It provides penetrating insight, an intuitive assessment of the world that cannot come any other way.” ~James Emery White

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