The art of contemplation

Through contemplation we build wisdom.  Photo by wilsan u on Unsplash

There is doing, and there is contemplation.


Normally, the proportion of doing to contemplation is greatly in favour of doing.  After all, beings can learn by doing first, and then processing the results of that doing.  The problem is, this kind of trial-and-error processing can be extremely inefficient.  Broadly speaking, evolution, as it is commonly understood, has happened by trial and error.  The beings that did certain things lived, and the beings that did certain other things died.


What contemplation brings us, is the ability to think things through, but without having to endure all the consequences of all potential actions.  So, instead of having several fights, and discovering that fights bruise us… we can contemplate the existence and effects of fights, and make a conscious choice to avoid them.


This is one of the main uses of our cerebral cortex.  We have a huge amount of equipment with which to process the input of our senses.  This equipment can not only translate what we experience into coherent pictures.  More than that, it can assimilate everything we experience into one or more coherent stories.  It does this by eliminating what is inconsistent or non-essential, and keeping what is consistent or essential.


This is, generally speaking, the nature of wisdom.  Wisdom is the useful story we get about life, when we have processed the inputs enough to eliminate the inconsistent and non-essential, and retain the consistent and essential.

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It may be that, at the moment, I have an opportunity to contemplate.  This could be because my activities are reduced, or because I have taken time out deliberately to contemplate my life.

I may be fed up with bruising myself for ever in fruitless fights against life.  Perhaps it is now time to use my brain: to explore and analyse, until I find out what essential, consistent stories work for me, and will protect me and others in future.  I can also learn, by this method, to discard the stories that are not consistent and are not essential.

By watching carefully, I can find out what wisdom is truly useful.