TRAINING THE BRAIN TO THINK DEEPLY IS THE KEY TO TRUE WISDOM.
By Rabbi Chay Amar
A renown Rabbi, Chaim Brisker , knew that his children had accumulated knowledge in school, but he wanted them to also use their mind and turn that knowledge into wisdom. So instead of asking them questions and supplying multiple choice answers, he would pose difficult questions. He typically presented these questions to them right before sending them off on an errand. He would do this so that they would ponder the question while in navigating through the physical world. He taught them to do this until they arrived at a creative answer. In this way, they were maximizing time by exercising their brains, while having to do “mindless” tasks. These youths would wonder why was this question asked this way, and what could be a possible answer. Why is this answer better than another? You can imagine that a brain trained this way would see every facet of life at a much deeper level, as well. Instead, today it is our devices and not our brains that are “smart.” Even while running an errand, we find it inconceivable to leave the cell phone behind, our goal being high functioning, as opposed to deep thinking.
The Pitfalls of Thinking
A story is told about Einstein standing at the entrance to a coffee shop. He was so engrossed in thought that at one point he turned to someone and asked, “Was I going in or out?” Evidently, this example is extreme, however the point is that this brilliant man was often not fully cognizant of the extent and powerful implications of his own discoveries.
Conversely, I once counseled a young woman that came to see me for marriage advice. She had been dating a young man for some time, but was not sure if she should marry him. I asked her, “Can you name five things you don’t like about him?” She reeled them off instantly. “Now tell me five things that you do like about him.” This took longer. Suddenly, she really had to think. That is when I noticed a burn on her hand. When I asked what happened, she said that during an argument her boyfriend poked her with his cigarette.
Why would she even consider marrying such a person? No woman with self-esteem would allow a man or anyone to treat her like this. But this is also an unfortunate, yet perfect example of the opposite extreme in thinking—superficial thinking. Those who, throughout their lives, only scratch the surface when they think and end up thinking the same thoughts are superficial thinkers. These are the individuals who typically require a harsh awakening to realize that there is deeper dimension.
The Ultimate Goal: Practical Wisdom
The more a brain is trained to think deeply, the more it becomes a vessel for greater wisdom.
Our objective should always be to refine our mind, so it can become a vessel for Godly wisdom, and then to apply this wisdom to our dayto- day life. Academic knowledge alone does not bring this about. The unique wisdom that I am describing is shared with the creative mind of the universe, as depicted in His Torah, which prompts us to perfect our conduct in this world and fulfill our mission as a part of humanity. These days we are too busy networking, surfing the Internet, or so hypnotized in front of the TV to even consider exercising our minds. We are twittering, blogging and pinging along instead. This is creating a systematic, progressive atrophy of our emotional, intellectual and/ or practical intelligence. And this completely and totally undermines our self confidence.
Self-confidence and wisdom emerge when you know that you have fully accessed your own mind to think things through, and therefore truly own your thoughts. You feel confident and accountable for your thinking process.
If you have strong and healthy self-esteem, no one will even try to mess with you, because when you respect yourself, that solid sense of self is perceived by others and they too, instinctively, know to respect you. We all know people who possess this quality. They are people who project something from within themselves that causes others to respond with respect. These are the humble, yet charismatic leaders like Moses, the wise rulers like king Solomon, the confident courageous queens like Ester; they are also the mothers, the fathers, the shop keeper, the soldier, the CEO and the sales person; they are you and me, but only if and when we really know and understand that we are precious, and that we carry a gift within us, a source of water, of wealth, of trust and strength—all of it unlimited in its beauty and its power.