The Essential Art of Reflection

It is the hope of the Spirited Reasoner that the practice of reflection–taking time out of one’s busy life to simply experience life without judgment or mental interaction–appears to be making a comeback in the 21st Century.  Wonderful books, YouTube videos, and audiotapes are now available to teach anyone whatever form of meditation one might wish to try.  Even the word “meditation” might be a bit limiting to describe the many forms of reflection one can practice to great benefit.  Reading the works of Eckhart Tolle, for example, one can learn the importance of stepping behind thought altogether–becoming the Watcher of one’s sensory, emotional, and mental experiences as they happen.

If such a practice includes the use of one’s time away from, or behind, the habit of thinking, why should we, as “Spirited Reasoners,” recommend such a practice to others?  Doesn’t reasoning, by definition, require conscious thought?  And doesn’t the word “spirited” imply the opening of floodgates to passion and emotion?

It is my belief that our civilization’s finest works have been those born first of reflection, leading to thought, leading to emotion, and then to action, in that order.  Works born merely of emotion tend to be shallow and temporary.  Those born only of thought tend to be boring, because they fail to connect with our emotions.  Those born only of the combination of thought and emotion tend to have a bit more staying power, but they ultimately fail when challenged by the fundamental “why” questions of life.  This last category includes works written in haste by politicians immediately before or after a political campaign, in which they make use of platitudes or slogans that might gel only with their fiercest supporters.

I believe it is no accident that so many great, lasting works were written by individuals who were imprisoned for a length of time sufficient to force them to reflect on the meaning of life itself, or at least life’s greatest questions.  Or maybe they were suffering from some injury or illness that required them to remain in one place, or they were on voyages of discovery that allowed for days of reflection and rumination about a nagging, fundamental question important to our existence as human beings.  The point is that they did more than merely think and feel.  They took an extra step back and reflected, finding a silent space where even the most compelling thoughts and emotions could be observed clinically and dispassionately.  Most important of all, this time of reflection allowed new thoughts, emotions, and connections to emerge–connections that would never have taken place had not these moments of peaceful observation been allowed.

This is not to say that all great works were written by hermits, or that it is impossible for creative forces to exist amidst the frenzy of society or work carried out in the presence of other people.  The point is that times of reflection appear to increase the depth and breadth of an author’s work.

Thus, I believe that when we expand the time we spend simply reflecting, as opposed to thinking, then, when our time for reflection has ended, our thoughts are more likely to be those of a reasoner whose emotions are now guided with wisdom and truth.  And so the Spirited Reasoner, to be a reasoner whose spirit can accomplish worthy ends, needs to spend time away from reasoning and passion, and simply reflect on the wonder of it all.