For Those Who Think -Haidar Saif
Do you think?
Of course, I do. That’s surely a stupid question. We all think. Human being cannot function without some sort of thinking. Ok, that’s fair. Cats and dogs also function as a species. Do they think as well? If they do, how are we different from them?
Well, scientists today say, animals like cats and dogs think but in a different way. Their cognitive abilities are different from humans. Even cats and dogs have differences between them. Their focus pattern is different. For example, cats focus more on immediate surroundings. Dogs focus on their relationship with human and other animals. That’s just one of many differences.
But let’s leave them aside for a while. How we humans are different? What is it that makes us superior to all others? It is surely not the instinctive thinking that keeps us alive. It must be something else. Something more and deep.
Let’s look at it in a different way.
A man, in his 40s, sitting in a cave, day-night, all alone, thinking about something, or about a lot of things. He has no problem surviving as a species. The cave where he sits is not an easy-going place. You have to climb stiff hill to get there. Interestingly, he is not done with his thinking in one full day, or two, or three days. He is literally living there for several days. All he is doing, is thinking, as we know. No company around. Sometimes, his wife comes, with food. Then again, he is left alone.
You may say that’s an extreme example, not a suitable recipe for everyone. We may agree on that. But, still, the example leaves us with a very important question. Up there, what kind of thinking he was engaged in?
Maybe, by now, you are familiar with the idea of metaphor. Put simply, it is a kind of comparison, where we don’t care about physical similarities. Rather we mean something more, something profound, most of the time expressed just in a more beautiful way.
So, metaphorically speaking, our beloved prophet (as we have presumably guessed by this time who the cave person is) was engaged in a much higher level of thinking, as high as the cave itself. So, thinking can be high and low? Yes, the thinking has all kinds of levels. And, among other things, it is those levels that determines where we will be placed in the hierarchy of human society, even in the civilization.
It is actually very easy to understand. Your five-year-old sister is thinking about how to get a candy. So, she starts crying and gets one as consolation. That satisfies her, only her. You are thinking about passing your next exam, or winning your next cricket match. If you pass, you will be happy. But your parents will be happy as well. So, your level is a little higher than your sister.
Now, let’s think about another man – Ibn Sina. This Persian man was an absolute genius. He used to think about a lot of things. Medicine, philosophy, astronomy, physics, even poetry—his thinking covers a lot. What’s the result? Among other things, he left us with one of his books, which is considered the foundational book of modern medicine. That means, whenever a doctor is prescribing you something for your stomach ache or knee injury, he is actually borrowing something from Ibn Sina’s thought.
That’s a good example to remember what your level of thinking can do.
So, by now, you have got an idea what a higher level of thinking can do. But there is another dimension to it. You may have heard about it. It is called deep thinking. Among those who engage in research, it is also known as critical thinking.
Let’s look at an example. By now, you all have operated some sort of a smartphone. You surely have noticed, your grandma sometimes calling you to help find your cousin’s phone number who lives in remote countryside. Your maa is smarter and doesn’t need your help to find anything. But you know for sure she doesn’t know all the tricks the phone camera can do. And so on. So, you may safely think that you have a deeper knowledge about the cellphone than your grandma or maa.
That sounds true but actually only half-true. One day, your maa’s cellphone crashes and you discover that, with all your knowledge, you cannot do anything at all to help her. You bring the phone to the mechanic. And when he opens the phone case and look inside, you suddenly understand that you actually know very very little about the cellphone. Your ‘deep’ knowledge suddenly becomes quite shallow. The interesting truth is the mechanic also feels the same when he faces even bigger truth.
It is a common problem of our time. Common and overwhelming. Many of us think they know things. They boast, show off, and never forget to give their opinion, on almost anything and everything. It is not that you cannot know and learn at a younger age. But it is your attitude that discloses it all – how much you really know.
I’m sure you have heard the saying many many times. The more you know, the humble you become. What does that mean? Look at the words of those who really knew. You may have heard about the great Persian poet Sheikh Sadi. After spending the whole life seeking knowledge, he said, at the end of his life:
“The more knowledge you have, the more you realize how little you know.”
Or, think about the great scientist Isaac Newton. His work has laid the foundation of modern physics. Listen, carefully, to his words:
“To myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
I hope, you have got the point by now. Learn to think. Learn to think deeply. But never get satisfied with what you have learnt.