Blog #29: The Knower


books stack old antique

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“Knowledge is power, but using it wisely is the key.”

Learn. Know. Do.

Knowing is just as important as doing, and yet sometimes we prize action over inaction, when inaction is the appropriate course. For example, keeping one’s mouth shut at Thanksgiving dinner; it is important to recognize when someone’s behavior is inappropriate, but it is also important to be patient when faced with this behavior. Knowledge, this fundamental information, empowers us to make more patient, thoughtful decisions in our lives. And if there is one moral behind all of these blog posts for November, it’s this: thoughtfulness is paramount. Nothing can replace genuine thought for another person; empathy is what brings us together.

With that being said, in the car yesterday, Alex and I spoke about how patience can make an unexpected, new menace: overthinking. If knowledge is power, then too much knowledge can lead to corruption and self-destruction. Overthinking can make a person feel inadequate, having thought so much about something that it overshadows the thought every other person involved has given to the subject. When a situation only calls for a certain degree of thinking, but you overthink it instead, what do you do? How do you calm yourself down? How do you know what is the appropriate amount of thought to give to a particular subject? Is there such a thing as “overthinking”? Aren’t we always thinking about something?

The answer to the last question is no, surprisingly. We aren’t always thinking, and there are ways to turn off our brains from time to time, surprisingly enough. Here’s an example. As an English teacher, I’ve had my fair share of absent-minded musings during a lecture, and that’s in part because, while speaking, it’s easy to lose track of my train of thought (at least, as someone with ADD, this is how my brain works). I’ll be talking about the themes in Of Mice & Men, when suddenly my brain moves elsewhere and there’s nothing I can do to reclaim my previous train of thought. It’s disappeared from my mind, and now only lives in the students’ memories. This, of course, does not end well. But the point of this is, while speaking, we think less than we do while silent. You can talk and think at the same time, but multitasking has been proven to be less effective than just individually targeting one activity at a time. As an introvert, I don’t like to talk without having a reason to talk, perhaps because I feel more comfortable inside the safety of my own thoughts, but sometimes our thoughts (and knowledge itself) can betray us through overthinking about a subject. And then, without warning, our brains fight against our better judgement. This is the curse of the anxious mind.

If I knew more about mindfulness, I would discuss it here, as I think it’s a wonderful resource to have while talking about the nature of our thoughts. Unfortunately, I am but a mindfulness novice. Maybe some day I can bring that into one of these blogs. Mindfulness would be a quality answer to some of these problems.

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