It is a word many have almost lost; even if it appears occasionally, its meaning is insignificant or has become obscure to post-modern people. Contemplation is deep, serious and quiet thoughts for a period of time. It is purposeful and it requires total concentration of the person undergoing it.
We are trained to multi-task by highly advanced technology; and we are supposed to be doing something at all times, except for maybe during five to eight hours of our sleeping time. living a life nowadays means constantly being in touch and connected to people or things. The pouring information and readily available knowledge drown us with not-so-real images of ourselves and the world surrounding us. we are not sure what to choose and how to make sense of the overwhelming quantity of recources. As many things scramble for our attention at the same time, we are rarely in the mood to contemplate. To be still, quiet, and to think deeply, ponder over and over again, has become hardship, not luxury. It’s so easy for us to become shallow thinkers, losing the motivation for any deepening processes, because we have so little time and so much to do. The desire to accomplish more and more of the tangible things makes contemplation irrelevant, as if pausing is falling behind or obstructing progress. The universal belief is that we should always move forward, and that this is a positive and desirable attitude.
We, however, seldom analyse where we are heading, how we ought to make a move, and why we should go ahead or change to a different objective. In many ways we are drifted along without a clear direction or understanding. And we can’t halt ourselves and don’t want to review the situation.
It’s a bit sad that we tend to be complacent with what is on the surface. It is understandable that sometimes we are scared to look deeper into ourselves, but mostly we are not so interested in what’s inside us. Humans as a whole are shunning contemplation.
Yet long ago, Aristotle said, “The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” This suggests that what we think is more important than what we do. God in the Bible tells us, “Be still”, even in the midst of our tribulations. For many fast doers, it’s hard to imagine that ‘stillness’ can be considered a strength.
Shall we then make more time to think, reflect, mediate, imagine and talk to ourselves?
The German philosopher, Meister Eckhart, considered that “what we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.”
This is certainly encouraging. But the mere contemplative mental exercise is itself beneficial to humans who possess the unique abilities to think and analyse. An inner dialogue with oneself can be inspirational, illuminating as well as cheerful, brightening, and even funny. Like your computers and smart phones, we all need to be recharged and refreshed, not by emptying or overstuffing our brains, but by concentrating on one or a few ideas at a time. We may not be better in our actions afterwards, but at least we have devoted sufficient time and attention to our thoughts, to be more responsible individuals and more understanding of ourselves and others.
Slow down, pause, stop for a moment; in order to live in the moment and to enjoy contemplation. After all, these moments can help us define the meaning of our lives.