Graham Greene wrote in The Quiet American, “Innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.”
For me at ten years the loss of innocence was trying to look out the Idaho living room window one evening with a light on inside and snow outside and I was surprised to see my reflection. For an instant there was confusion to who I was: the reflection or what it saw. I moved slightly to feel my body and determined thereon to be the person inside it.
A second mindful decision occurred twenty years later in a Michigan kitchen alone reading and a sentence from Carl Jung´s Memories, Dreams and Reflections. I looked up abruptly from archetypes as universal thoughts, symbols, or images having a large amount of unconscious power, and are shared… and it popped into my head from that point on to control my own thoughts. With willful effort I practiced the multiplication tables for ten minutes until the answer to 2 x 2 did not arrive until I caused it.
The third grave verdict that has shaped my life took place in a Michigan basement while reading Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass where the page turned to the hideous monster poem ´Jabberwocky´. It´s written in mirror text, and it doesn’t matter that I was reading in a coffin lined with electric blankets against the icy wind whooshing through the wall cracks, or that I was reading with an Edmond Scientific top grade mirror to reverse the text so the Jabberwocky came alive from left to right. Suddenly it dawned on me that I could turn the book upside down to cause the print to flow right to left and dispense with the mirror and monster. That´s how I´ve read hundreds of book to date, and the reason is to balance the body, eyes and brain to a more perfect symmetry to think better critically.
The fourth waypoint on the road to objective thinking was learning the chessmen and their moves that is as much a model as computers for the thought process.
The fifth rest stop is quotations that has become a lifelong study, and one of the best on critical thinking (that is attributed to no one) is “Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking in order to make your thinking better.”
So in a long march to discovery of self along the best road I know how, in the first step I determined the body manufactures the thoughts; in the second that I could control the thoughts, on the third that the body must remain healthy and symmetrical to think better; on the fourth to use models to understand how the mind functions, and at the fifth to stand on other´s shoulders and pass along their advice.
Howard Zinn said, “History can come in handy. If you were born yesterday, with no knowledge of the past, you might easily accept whatever the government tells you. But knowing a bit of history- while it would not absolutely prove the government was lying in a given instance- might make you skeptical, lead you to ask questions, make it more likely that you would find out the truth.” I might add this is not only true of government but of medicine, business, sports and anything else worth thinking about. The trick is to balance being skeptical and open. If you are only skeptical then no new ideas filter through to you and nothing new is learned. On the other hand, if you are open to the stretch of gullibility without an ounce of skepticism, then you won´t be able to distinguish the useful from the worthless.
The one skill everyone on the planet needs is the ability to think with objectivity. If we are prepared to think for ourselves, and learn how to do it well, there is little danger of becoming slaves to the ideas and values of others that is taking the earth and limiting self-potential. The list of core critical thinking skills includes observation, interpretation, analysis, comparison, evaluation and explanation
There are some training workouts: math, read Sherlock Holmes, logic riddles, and conversing with other critical thinkers. The number and direction of steps up from fuzzy thinking to a height of acute awareness varies from person to person. The ultimate step a quantum leap because no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
The adventure of critical thinking is the finding of self. You develop insights into what is and can be. I´ve found as much as possible, and the chase goes on.