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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

There's Thinking, Then There's Thinking...

I was watching The Visitor (a movie that starts with an economist leaving Connecticut to present a paper at NYU -- at first I thought it might be a movie about Bill Butos), which turned out to be a very nice movie, despite being about feelings. But there was one scene where the younger Syrian drummer who is a major character is giving the economist drum lessons, and he says to him: "Walter, you're a very smart guy, but I have to tell you, don't think. Thinking only gets in the way of drumming."

Man, the errors one can fall into through a lack of study of British Idealist philosophers! You hear the same thing regarding athletics, and its equally wrong in both areas. Having had some minor success as a musician and a swimmer, I can say you perform best when you are thinking intensively, exclusively, about your playing or swimming. But you have to be thinking musically or swimmingly, and not thinking abstract, verbal thoughts about playing or swimming. That's what's really meant by these admonitions "Don't think!" It is confusing thinking tout court with abstract, verbal reasoning that leads to this mistake. If only these people had read more Oakeshott, they wouldn't make these errors. In fact, perhaps they should read Oakeshott while drumming, since they don't need to think while playing!

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