How little time we have to think. Consider it. When we have a long journey, we plug into a movie on our iPads, laptops, or phones; we listen to music; we read a book on an electronic e-reader. Throwaway newspapers have been provided for our convenience on the subway so we don’t have to spend too much time sitting there, lost in our own thoughts. How bored we would be. Or, how dangerous we might become.
The reality of what we’re doing (going to a big room to spend 9 hours a day sitting in front of a box firing emails to other people sitting two floors above us), where we are (several hundred metres underground separated from the surface of London by pipes, sewage, and rats), and who we are (anybody) could suddenly hit us and we might jack it all in and get off the subway and walk home. Productivity would fall, the world’s economy would shatter, and we’d all be a lot more miserable.
Paul Theroux, in his book Riding the Iron Rooster, talks about the Chinese in 1987 scurrying from one place to another, occupied by schedules and times and work. Revolution came so late because they were flogged so close to the ground; taking the time to think was never an option. This is why dreamers are seen as such dangerous workplace entities. They’re close to realizing the entire sham of it all and leaving. But they can’t because the system doesn’t support people who don’t follow the rest of the world. We are, after all, a society based on groups.
Before you start to reassure yourself, considering options is not the same as thinking. Considering is when you need to choose what you’re going to have for dinner, or what your career options are. Thinking is about possibilities. Thinking requires time and nothing else. It can be difficult to pick thoughts up from where you left off. Often, when you really stop to consider something, you face a virtual brick wall in your mind. This can take a different shape or format for different people. For some, it’s an actual wall. It can be difficult to see round it, or think over it. For others, it’s black space. For most, it’s the end of the thought process.
But this is what is so beautiful about thinking. That blank wall is the end of your known experiences. It can become difficult to create shapes and ideas out of nothing. Because beyond that is your imagination.
Travelling opens your mind because it allows you to grow new branches to your knowledge and new smells and sensations to add to your experiences, which can then fuel your imagination. It also gives you the time to sit and ponder. Whether that thinking is in a semi-doze on a beach rug on Playa del Carmen, or whether you’re chugging through an arid desert in Mongolia, it’s glorious to see what the human mind is capable of when it gets to play and isn’t constantly clouded by outside stimuli.
Don’t be afraid to think.