We spend most of our lives not being aware about our selves and our worlds. We do not realise fully our own thoughts, feelings, and actions, and what impact they have on us and others. Yet, we wonder why we we fail to change anything.
Changing our selves and our worlds requires us to understand first. We will not be able to understand reality in all its details, but we can realise many aspects that enhance our understanding.
Thinking alone is not enough. Thoughts and feelings are elusive and obscure. When it is difficult to pin down a thought or a feeling and look at it closer, it is often difficult to make sense of it.
Writing captures the soaring thoughts in our head and the floating feelings in our hearts and presents them in front of us to explore. The level of understanding increases incredibly when thoughts and feelings are written down.
Words might not accurately reflect our thoughts and feelings. Writing is like sculpturing. The artist might use different materials to create a realistic model of an object in front of her, but she knows what she is creating is not a real representation. Nevertheless her work remains important, showing the world some distinctive aspects of the object she was modelling.However we don’t live isolated from the world. And as different as we are from others, we are also the same.
Reading is a wonderful approach to understand the world and explore the ideas of others, captured through words. There are many other approaches to understand the world. We can watch, we can listen, and we can do. But the great thing with reading is that it allows time to be stoped in order to look at ideas closer.
With other tools of understanding, like watching and listening, it can go faster than we would like to. Too many messages are sent to us and infiltrate our unconscious minds without us having the chance to look at them. It is difficult to slow down the process. With reading we have time. You can go forth and back as much as we want. And the amount of messages received are limited and in our control.
Doing also allows us to experience and through that enhance our learning and understanding. But doing is not always an option. We are constrained with time and space. In some cases experimenting for ourselves to understand can be costly, if not impossible. Reading however allows us to understand in many places and times. It stimulates our imagination. As ironic as it might sound, reading can be sometimes more practical than doing.
This is why I think that thinking, reading, and writing together are important tools in the process of reflecting which will lead eventually and gradually to awareness.
Here I like to point something out. If you have noticed, I used thinking not only with processing thoughts but also with exploring feelings. This might sound a little bit odd. In English there is thinking, and there is reflecting. Thinking is about processing ideas in a rational objective way, whereas reflecting is about exploring feelings in a subjective natural way. In Arabic however, the word Qalb which stands for heart, is not only the centre of feelings, but also used to refer to the place were thoughts are processed. There is a separate word for mind, which is Aql, but too often they are used interchangeably, especially in the Quran, the holly book of Islam.
This, I believe, is an important idea. Whereas we often distinguish between the mind and heart, we often fail to realise that both are strongly interconnected. We are not aware how much our thoughts impact our feelings, and how our feelings impact our thoughts. Reflecting, in Arabic Tabas’sor, happens when we are aware of this interconnection, which allows us to see beyond what we experience inside us, and what we interact with outside us.
As argued above, reflecting doesn’t happen through thinking only, or at least it is not easy. Reading and writing, combined with thinking about thoughts and feelings, can facilitate the process.
Of course, these are all deep philosophical meanings and not everybody, if not most people, might agree with my categorisations and distinctions. But here is the thing with philosophy, if we can regard the mentioned above as one. Every philosopher, amateur and great, puts forward his own thinking and understanding of the world. The dominant philosophies today are the ones that are the most fashionable and influential. They describe how their creators see reality, and not necessarily how reality is. And this is what philosophy is about in the first place.
Therefore, whereas what I have said might not be accurate, agreeable, or deep enough, I still believe that it is useful for me to write about it. At the end, we are all on a journey of achieving awareness, and our understanding of our selves and our worlds will necessarily change as we progress. Even the tools we use to achieve awareness should not be immune to modification or a complete overhaul. Therefore, there might come a day where I myself disagree with what I’ve written above.