Taking Time to Think

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Taking time. That’s the secret. If you don’t take it, it will surely slip quietly and all too quickly away.

Recently, I picked up Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK] for the second time. The first time I read this book a few years back, I was still actively practicing my professional discipline, writing, doing workshops, and doing all the other things a father, husband and family man has to do. Although I enjoyed reading it very much, I never took much time to seriously contemplate the marvelous tidbits of information Bryson conveys so succinctly and understandably.

Now that I’m retired from active practice, have finished a major writing project, and have the time for many of my once-neglected interests, I am able to read with a whole new mindset. For reasons I won’t elaborate on, reading itself is a lot more difficult for me these days. But when I do delve into a book, especially one as interesting as Bryson’s, I actually have time to ponder and reflect upon the most intriguing aspects of its contents.

Time to really think is a wonderful thing. Most of the time, even though we might find a degree of escape from the distracting “chatter” of daily life in a book, life’s other demands remain constantly in the background, keeping us from contemplating the author’s message as we otherwise might. That’s how it was the first time I read Bryson’s chapters on the miracle of life and the more than interesting lives of atoms. One passage commented on the fact that it takes billions of atoms bound in unbelievably complex ways by unimaginably enormous energy to allow any of us to even exist. This time reading those chapters, however, I really spent some time reflecting upon that insight. The result was an entirely different level of appreciation for the mysteries of nature and even my own existence.

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My experience re-reading a book with more time to reflect — and less distraction — rekindled an awareness in me about how important it is to take time out of our normal, hectic lives to reflect, ponder, muse, and imagine. Time to think. Time to process. I’ve lately realized how little such time I took over the years doing that very thing, and I have some regret about it. But now that circumstances have changed, I have come to treasure every precious conscious moment. Taking time. That’s the secret. If you don’t take it, it will surely slip quietly and all too quickly away.

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