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Finding Help For Thinking New Thoughts

by John K. Stoner   (June 26, 2017)

Today I am sharing the introductory thoughts of Dennis Rivers in  his essay "Friendships for The Greater Good: Building Transformational Teams of Two."  Such partnering, I am suggesting, will help us to discover the spiritual capacity of ourselves and others to know the larger universe of love and helpful guidance in which we live.

How new thinking partners can help us think much-needed new thoughts.

I'm sure most of you are familiar with two of Einstein's famous sayings, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." and, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." In spite of the fact that runaway free market industrial capitalism appears to be killing the planet, there are still loud calls for even lower taxes, even less regulation, and less planning, so that the system which has been happy to provide us with child pornography, leaking nuclear power plants, heroin, private prisons, and the rusted out wasteland cities of the Northeast and Midwest, can finally somehow provide us with a happy and sustainable life.

In my experience, once having invested their hopes and dreams in a particular path of action, people become extremely reluctant to admit that the path chosen might have been a mistake. And the larger the mistake, the larger the reluctance. (I know that tendency well in myself.) Just think of the Iraq war: fifteen years of fighting, thousands of lives lost, perhaps millions injured, several trillion dollars spent, with the situation now much worse than when the war began. And people are still arguing that this war was a good idea! As an American citizen horrified by the Iraq war, it makes me wonder... Will the death of the Earth follow the same blind path as the destruction of Iraq? We have already shown how reluctant we humans can be to facing the consequences of our actions.

To think new thoughts we will often need new thinking partners. Although every now and then people can think wonderful new ideas all by themselves, thinking has a deeply social element in it. Those wonderful ideas will probably not get developed unless there is someone to talk with. We learn to think, early in life, in the company of those from whom we learn to speak. Then we spend ten to twenty years in classrooms and teams where our thinking power unfolds even more in the company of others. In this social view of language and thinking (for which there is a large body of evidence), whatever ideas we hold, we almost always hold in the context of a circle of conversation partners.

Now Mother Earth is falling apart, and we need to think big new thoughts about what sort of social arrangements will allow life to flourish rather than perish. We already know the kinds of social arrangements that have brought us to our current impasse. Inventing something new and actually better (evolution!) will be the cooperative challenge of a lifetime.

As one possible way of meeting that challenge, I am proposing in this article that each of us begin by cooperating with at least one other person, each partner giving the other permission to "think outside the box," and also to care about life in widening circles, outside the box of the individual selfishness that is, un- fortunately, the glowing ideal of capitalism everywhere. When you start thinking new thoughts about the society in which you live, or start to care with a wider caring that your society allows, you risk evoking intense hostility from people around you who may have given up all hope of a better world. Having a small circle of supportive friends, or even one, can make all the difference. You could think of that new conversation partner as a swim-buddy for the ocean of life, or perhaps a Mother Earth accountability partner. 

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