Thinking is still important
January 8, 2016
I recently read a short overview on Wikipedia of the Hoover Institute, which is a "think tank" established in the early 1900s by Herbert Hoover and housed on the campus of Stanford University. The Institution was set up by Hoover, one of Stanford's first graduates, who would later become the 31st President of the United States.
Hoover had been in charge of American relief efforts in Europe after World War I. His express purpose for establishing the Institute was to collect the records of contemporary history as it was happening. Hoover's helpers frequently risked their lives to rescue documents and rare printed material, especially from countries under Nazi or Communist rule.
The Hoover Institution's website says: "By collecting knowledge, generating ideas, and disseminating both, the Institution seeks to…". The website then lists the ideals and objectives of the Institute, which were interesting, but are not the focus of my article today. Rather, I'd like to reflect on the value of "collecting knowledge, generating ideas and disseminating both" in today's fast-paced world. This reflection is stimulated by an experience I had during the Christmas holiday.
On the Tuesday following Christmas, I had the opportunity – rather the privilege – of spending the day with a group of 25 thought-provoking cattlemen for a day of discussion and "think time." The group met in a living room of a gracious family and spent the day talking about science, ideas, production practices and questions related to the beef industry.
Although I enjoyed the topics of discussion a great deal, I appreciated the process that took place during the day even more. It was a process rich with idea sharing, appreciation for sound data, collegiality, friendship, mutual respect, admiration for others in the group, intellect, and good will among this group as the discussion took place. I came away from this experience recharged and ready for another year.
I fear that in many cases today with the immense amount information available at our fingertips, on our televisions, and other electronic devices, we may miss the opportunity to pause and reflect and really "think." It is so easy to be bombarded with information that we miss the importance of thinking. If you will permit me to quote from words of King Solomon in the Bible, I think he expressed this point well when he wrote, "With all thy getting get understanding." (Prov. 4:7.) It is certainly easy to "get" information today, but understanding usually requires much more effort, reflection and experience.
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I began this article with a brief overview of the Hoover Institute's mission to gather information and generate ideas. As I begin another year, I have recommitted myself to making the time in my schedule to pause regularly and strive to "understand," not just to "get." Perhaps we could all benefit by more "think" time and less information overload in our lives. Have a great 2016!