Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thoughts on thinking. . .

At the moment, my for-pleasure reading is a 1998 Jane Smiley novel called The All-true Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton, which I purchased for a dollar at Book Savers in the Gift and Thrift Shopping Center. The story is set in the Kansas Territory during the turbulent 1850's--the time of the violent Kansas border wars. On page 92, I came across a passage that made me both chuckle and think about the current political derisiveness that swirls around our newish president.

In Ms. Smiley's novel, our heroine's sisters are talking about Marian, a cousin who's moved away to teach the children of freed slaves. Marian is, needless, to say an ardent abolitionist, and our heroine's sisters--who like to confine conversations to discussions of the goings on in their own backyards--find their cousin heavy going conversationally. Here's the passage.
I don't know why she brings these ideas into the family! You sit down to supper and there's ideas there; and then you get up in the morning and make the tea, and there's ideas again. It makes you feel all outside of yourself, looking out the door of your own house, that you look out of a hundred times a day, but there's ideas making it look all different. There's no comfort in it, I'll tell you that!"
Yesterday, as I was intermittently listening to President Obama address the United Nations, I found myself thinking about Cousin Miriam, because it occurred to me that this president--just like cousin Marian--talks about ideas. And by talking about ideas, he's demanding that we think deeply about what he's saying instead of just reacting to it (as we could if he'd just lighten up and stick to talking points!)

Wow! What a lot of hard work President Obama expects us to do! Has he got a lot of nerve or what? There's no comfort in it, I'll tell you that!


  1. Thinking outside ones self and reflection is elitist talk. It causes uprisings and disturbances. Best be left in the dark crevices otherwise change may break out from local to around the world. Who would want that to spread throughout the world. More thinking, reflection and work on ones self may then be required.

  2. A different Larry said: Actually, I think the President's challenge on us is not so much to think, but to act. In the 1850s, all women and many men lacked the right to vote and actually would have been hard put to find a use for opinions on issues. Today, a majority of us have some kind of opinion on a lot of issues, even if it's just something rather slimy we found lying around on the Fox News studio floor. But the idea that we should inform ourselves and act, in the logical way that we do say when we buy a house or make medical decisions -- that's the tough task. And the success or failure of President Obama depends 100% on whether enough of us do it.