The Lost Art of Deep Thinking

In school these days, or at least in mine, I've noticed a similar pattern over the years. It's the fact that whenever there's a mention of really deep topics, it's like kids can't even handle it. They either tune it out completely, thinking it's irrelevant to them and they just don't care, or it honestly scares them off, and they just count down the time until they can get back to Snapchatting their friends. I've seen on more than one occasion and, sometimes, even watched in horror at people's responses to deep situations, where they're just plain inappropriate.

I was sitting in a class today when I really got to be thinking about this. We were doing an analysis of some material, and it just made me realize how kids simply do not have the attention span for that anymore. And I do understand that getting into abstract topics and analyzing things isn't for everyone, and not everyone has the personality where they really want to do that. So I get that, but I also think all of us, regardless of personality, are plenty capable of having a mindset that thinks deeper than just us and our life. If we can't do that, it's because we're choosing not to, and I've been guilty of that at times myself.

I think it's sad, though, how shallow society has become and how self-absorbed people are. And I'm sure this isn't anything new; I think that now, though, with the availability of social media, it's been emphasized that much more, because now people have these platforms where they can truly advertise themselves. And you can't make anyone think beyond themselves, either, or to look at the world and really stop to reflect on their own character and life. It's like those awkward group projects you have to do—when you want to take charge and be the leader, but you can just tell that the rest of the group is not engaged and really does not care about what you're doing. For me personally, I don't like talking to people about deep things unless I know they want to hear about it. It feels awkward trying to force that on someone, and if you do force it on someone, how is that going to make them think deeper? It won't; they'll probably just tolerate listening to you and then be on their way.

Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't ever try, because you never know if it might be your words that get through to someone. But it's just sad that most people don't have the time to listen or care about deeper things.

I really think people need to learn how to think more deeply, where it's not just about their own life and problems. I mean, one time I was having a conversation with my mom, and I made the comment that in today's world, there isn't a lot of concern for other people. When's the last time you sincerely felt grieved in your heart for someone you didn't even know and owed nothing, but you were just sad because you could deeply empathize with them and feel their pain as if it were your own? Have you ever done that for someone you don't even know or owe anything to? I think that's half the problem. There is no genuine concern for people. I'm not saying you have to cry about everyone and their situations, or you will become depressed (I know this from experience...), but feeling sadness over the brokenness of this world isn't going to hurt most people. It would be good for a lot of people to think this way for once in their life.

Believe it or not, writing has also been a huge gateway for me to practice empathy and thinking beyond myself. When I'm writing, I'm forced to think from perspectives other than my own. I have to write as people who think differently than I do. My characters have to have diverse points of view, or (a) they get redundant, (b) they think just like I do, which leads to (c) them being boring. One book with one character who may think like I do is the max; write any more along that point of view and nobody cares. The whole point of making writing relatable and authentic is that you have to get inside the minds of other people as best you can, even people you have NOTHING in common with or completely disagree with. And if I can do well at that, then I'll consider myself successful.

For example, in a short story I was working on a couple years ago, I was creating the most cynical character who was so done with faith and had these views about God so opposite to my own, sometimes I would honestly say to God something like, You know this is not me believing this, it's my character, right?

And now, in my second novel, I'm writing from two characters who not only have different views from me, but also completely opposite views from each other. One of my characters, it's kind of funny, because I read my grandma my story as I update it and so she's in the loop about who they all are, and one of them is just a complete wild boy in every sense you could imagine. Seriously. There's probably not a sin you could list that he hasn't committed. So I call my grandma every night, and a lot of times she'll ask me if I've been writing lately or sometimes she'll ask, so how is this boy doing and have you shaped him up yet? What is he doing? And then I'll say something along the lines of how he's probably hungover somewhere. And my job is to make readers like this guy, to somehow empathize with him and connect to his story. It gets challenging at times and definitely forces you to dig deep thinking wise, but I love the challenge of it.

I think that's where you'll get the most wisdom, is from allowing God to help you see people as He does. Everyone is fine with spouting off quotes about faith without thinking about their deeper meaning and applying them to situations or people they don't like. For example, everyone is fine with saying quotes like how God has never made a person He doesn't love and things like that. Which I completely agree with. But how many people, do you think, when they're citing those quotes, are thinking about themselves and how much God loves them? That's not a bad thing to do, but what if you take a quote like that and apply it to someone you can't stand or who has done unfathomable things like, say, the perpetrator of this last shooting? Would it still apply, or would there be hesitation about that?

Well, it would still apply, as God IS very clear there is no person beyond His love (2 Peter 3:9), but people don't think that way. They only think of that in the context of themselves, and then they'll go blast these evil people like they're not even human. But they are, and God still loves them, and that is what deeper thinking is about: thinking beyond yourself to people and situations in the world that God cares about just as much as He does yours. And if He does, we probably should, too.

I could say so much more on this topic, and don't worry I probably will on this blog, haha, but I think that would be a good introduction to my thoughts on this. Having a mindset that only focuses on ourselves is, honestly, natural. It's how we think, let's just be real. But it doesn't have to be that way, and we can make conscious efforts to be aware of other people and their lives, too. When you think about it in terms of problem-solving, the first thing you could ever do to attempt at finding a solution is to first be aware that there's a problem. And so by thinking this way, you become aware that there are other people in this world beyond yourself who have pain like you and are in just as desperate need of God's love and grace. And it really does change the way you think in life for the better. 

It really is the only way you'll change the world. And I'm not just saying that to sound romantic. Somebody who can't be bothered to think beyond themselves isn't going to do a dang thing—even if they are a genius. Why? Because what good is helping people if you can't even empathize with them and learn to connect with them? Trust me, there have been times I've seen the difference between authentically caring for someone and just doing it because I have to. When there's this passion put in my heart from God and I get this glimpse into their heart that God sees, it makes me so eager to do the things that are really going to have the potential to change their life. And that's how God uses people to be a light in a dark world. And in a world full of apathetic, egoistic people, this mindset is needed now more than ever.

And don't think it doesn't matter to people or pay off, because we all know lights shine brighter in darkness. And what I mean by that is when you authentically care for people beyond yourself, people who may not even have experienced that type of genuine kindness before, it will mean that much more to them.

Ashlee Mae