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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

       Friday, October 15 2004 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Learning how to think

I've mentioned before that Rush Limbaugh isn't my kind of conservative but I have to appreciate some of his insights or ways of putting things, including his often used "skulls full of mush" to describe the youthful greenhorns among us. Neither he nor I intend the description as pejorative or demeaning, it's just a generally accurate description of the same phenomenon that's been observed whenever someone paraphrases Samuel Clemmons' amazement about how much his father learned in the few years between his graduation from high school and his mid-twenties, or anyone who has observed, "I used to think I knew everything and now I'm not sure of anything." This process of jelling the mush into servicable grey matter is a universal component of reaching mental maturity.

I certainly speak from experience, even if I was something of a boy prodigy with a weekly column of my own at age 15 and editorial oversight of my hometown newspaper at 20. Even at that early peak in my career, I had much more to learn than I already knew. And the most important thing I had to learn, still, was how to think, or how to turn the pudding in my cranium into jello. Not how to think "politically correctly," or how to daydream (which what I had thought "thinking" was up till then), but how to think in terms of the big picture and turn my thinking into analyses of my world that others might find helpful. How to think "theoretically."

After showing the difference between a "theoretical," analytical, or scientific treatment of the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey on Monday, I said I'd show my own breakthrough in thinking related to another movie. I was writing reviews of new movies for the Goleta Valley Today newspaper in the major suburb of Santa Barbara when Zabriskie Point came out in 1970. Critics were giving it enthusiastic "thumbs up," but I found it perplexing. It had likeable characters and fascinating plot complications, but on the whole, I wasn't sure it was really about anything. (I'll bet most of you have had the same thought more than once after watching a movie.)

"What is it really about that makes these critics like it?" I asked. "What is it really about? It must be more than meets the eye." And the question seemed to be the answer. It wasn't "about" an event or series of events, a murder mystery or a commentary about the environment, but about an internal crisis in the characters' lives. It was about becoming new people or at least attaining new understanding of their own purposes in being. At that discovery, the review "wrote itself," and for years afterward every review I wrote was easier and much more worth reading than a few comments on the plot and whether and why I liked or disliked it. It was a quantum leap in my thinking viz. the movies. And a similar leap about thinking about everything else was just around the corner.

More to come.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 


I don't suffer from stress. I'm a carrier.

Sent by Julie Masterson  

Thought for today

Be ye fishers of men—you catch them and He'll clean them.

Sent by Trudy Myers  

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