Writing Guild—“Thinking”

The SaddleBrooke Ranch Writing Guild is a group dedicated to improving our writing skills. We meet on the second Tuesday of each month in the La Vista room at the La Hacienda Club from 1 to 3 p.m. If you have any questions about the club, please contact Joy Hellard at [email protected].


Keith Vincent

Heated topics often lead to accusations of the inability to think critically. It’s a powerful accusation. The issue is made more caustic if no one is thinking critically.

I have opinions about things just as much as most people do. Many of those opinions are based on facts and many are based on feelings. Position based on feeling can generally be wrong.

Feelings are wonderful. Otherwise, the bond between a parent and child would never form. Feelings can help us with asking the questions that start us on a path to drawing conclusions. For example, we can be outraged at the number of homeless animals. That outrage is a feeling. It demands a solution that demands a clear definition of the problem. That definition and solution must be based on facts.

When I take a position, I ask myself if that position is based on feelings or facts. Isaac Newton once stated that you must draw a conclusion that requires the fewest assumptions. That requires honesty because we really want our feelings to matter. Once you’re satisfied with your conclusion, you are then obligated to prove it … or not.

We got the scientific method from Newton’s observation. That carries us from hypothesis to theory to a law. Even today, we are finding that we went through the whole process and later found out that we were not exactly right.

In college, I took a philosophy course. One of the things we discussed was how philosophy was designed to answer life’s questions. We also discussed the validity of the questions and whether it was even worth asking. The professor asked, “If I drop a rock, will it fall?” He called it a waste of time to contemplate the improbability. I, being the smart ass, asked “Why? I can name a place just a couple of hundred miles from here where it won’t.” When pressed for that location, I simply pointed up.

The professor fell silent as he thought and admitted that he hadn’t considered all the facts, which explains why philosophy wasn’t just a course to garner some additional credits.

The idea was not to win. Bludgeoning will often have the opposite outcome. The idea is to exchange your thoughts. You might just learn something … and change your mind.

If you honestly try to prove yourself wrong and fail, congratulations. If you can’t prove yourself right, congratulations. Your journey isn’t yet over. You only failed for one of two reasons. You were either wrong or you don’t have all the facts. If you didn’t have all of the facts, you are obligated to admit it and seek out what you didn’t know.

The lack of intellectual honesty and the importance we place on feelings in our problem solving is one of humankind’s greatest failings. It allows us to accept things that are wrong and to reject things that are right. Worse, it provokes attacks and defensive reactions that easily escalate to levels that no sane person wants to witness.