Thought And Reserve Power. Part 2
1 How to attract and Hold an Audience, J. Berg Esenwein.
The Thinking Mind
Thinking is doing mental arithmetic with facts. Add this fact to that and you reach a certain conclusion. Subtract this truth from another and you have a definite result. Multiply this fact by another and have a precise product. See how many times this occurrence happens in that space of time and you have reached a calculable dividend. In thought-processes you perform every known problem of arithmetic and algebra. That is why mathematics are such excellent mental gymnastics. But by the same token, thinking is work. Thinking takes energy. Thinking requires time, and patience, and broad information, and clearheadedness. Beyond a miserable little surface-scratching, few people really think at all - only one in a thousand, according to the pundit already quoted. So long as the present system of education prevails and children are taught through the ear rather than through the eye, so long as they are expected to remember thoughts of others rather than think for themselves, this proportion will continue - one man in a million will be able to see, and one in a thousand to think.
But, however thought-less a mind has been, there is promise of better things so soon as the mind detects its own lack of thought-power. The first step is to stop regarding thought as "the magic of the mind," to use Byron's expression, and see it as thought truly is - a weighing of ideas and a placing of them in relationships to each other. Ponder this definition and see if you have learned to think efficiently.
Habitual thinking is just that - a habit. Habit comes of doing a thing repeatedly. The lower habits are acquired easily, the higher ones require deeper grooves if they are to persist. So we find that the thought-habit comes only with resolute practise; yet no effort will yield richer dividends. Persist in practise, and whereas you have been able to think only an inch-deep into a subject, you will soon find that you can penetrate it a foot.
Perhaps this homely metaphor will suggest how to begin the practise of consecutive thinking, by which we mean welding a number of separate thought-links into a chain that will hold. Take one link at a time, see that each naturally belongs with the ones you link to it, and remember that a single missing link means no chain.
Thinking is the most fascinating and exhilarating of all mental exercises. Once realize that your opinion on a subject does not represent the choice you have made between what Dr. Cerebrum has written and Professor Cerebellum has said, but is the result of your own earnestly-applied brain-energy, and you will gain a confidence in your ability to speak on that subject that nothing will be able to shake. Your thought will have given you both power and reserve power.
Someone has condensed the relation of thought to knowledge in these pungent, homely lines:
"Don't give me the man who thinks he thinks. Don't give me the man who thinks he knows,
But give me the man who knows he thinks,
And I have the man who knows he knows!"
Reading As A Stimulus To Thought
No matter how dry the cow, however, nor how poor our ability to milk, there is still the milkman - we can read what others have seen and felt and thought. Often, indeed, such records will kindle within us that pre-essential and vital spark, the desire to be a thinker.
The following selection is taken from one of Dr. Newell Dwight Hillis's lectures, as given in "A Man's Value to Society." Dr. Hillis is a most fluent speaker - he never refers to notes. He has reserve power. His mind is a veritable treasure-house of facts and ideas. See how he draws from a knowledge of fifteen different general or special subjects: geology, plant life, Palestine, chemistry, Eskimos, mythology, literature, The Nile, history, law, wit, evolution, religion, biography, and electricity. Surely, it needs no sage to discover that the secret of this man's reserve power is the old secret of our artesian well whose abundance surges from unseen depths.
The Uses Of Books And Reading
Bach Kingsley approaches a stone as a jeweler approaches a casket to unlock the hidden gems. Geikie causes the bit of hard coal to unroll the juicy bud, the thick odorous leaves, the pungent boughs, until the bit of carbon enlarges into the beauty of a tropic forest. That little book of Grant Allen's called "How Plants Grow" exhibits trees and shrubs as eating, drinking and marrying. We see certain date groves in Palestine, and other date groves in the desert a hundred miles away, and the pollen of the one carried upon the trade winds to the branches of the other. We see the tree with its strange system of water-works, pumping the sap up through pipes and mains; we see the chemical laboratory in the branches mixing flavor for the orange in one bough, mixing the juices of the pineapple in another; we behold the tree as a mother making each infant acorn ready against the long winter, rolling it in swaths soft and warm as wool blankets, wrapping it around with garments impervious to the rain, and finally slipping the infant acorn into a sleeping bag, like those the Eskimos gave Dr. Kane.
1 Used by permission.
At length we come to feel that the Greeks were not far wrong in thinking each tree had a dryad in it, animating it, protecting it against destruction, dying when the tree withered. Some Faraday shows us that each drop of water is a sheath for electric forces sufficient to charge 800,000 Leyden jars, or drive an engine from Liverpool to London. Some Sir William Thomson tells us how hydrogen gas will chew up a large iron spike as a child's molars will chew off the end of a stick of candy. Thus each new book opens up some new and hitherto unexplored realm of nature. Thus books fulfill for us the legend of the wondrous glass that showed its owner all things distant and all things hidden. Through books our world becomes as "a bud from the bower of God's beauty; the sun as a spark from the light of His wisdom; the sky as a bubble on the sea of His Power." Therefore Mrs. Browning's words, "No child can be called fatherless who has God and his mother; no youth can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books."