How are we thinking about this?

Earlier this year I took a few days out to stay at the Krishnamurti Centre - a beautiful retreat centre in southern England, next to Brockwood Park School, where two of my sons are studying. The Centre is dedicated to Jiddu Krishnamurti’s work. They have all of his books in just about every language you can imagine and a large number of his talks on video. Nonetheless, I found myself drawn to a rather dog-eared, photocopied manuscript on a small bookshelf tucked away in the corner of the library that wasn’t by Krishnamurti at all. It was the transcript of a series of dialogues held in Ojai, California by Krishnamurti’s friend and thinking partner, physicist David Bohm.

Bohm suggests that the vast number of problems human beings have are because we aren’t very good at thinking. The difficulty, he says, is that thought can’t see itself.

With the body, we have a sense of ‘proprioception’. I know where my arm is (even if I can’t see it) because I feel it from inside. The mind is different. Thought doesn’t have this quality and that trips us up. We mistake the way we are thinking about things for the way things are.

I read the manuscript slowly. It seemed such a simple and powerful notion, yet I found it hard to grasp. So once I had finished reading the text, I started to read it again. And, since the manuscript is unavailable anywhere else, when I was visiting the boys at school a few months later, I went back to the Krishnamurti Centre and started to read it again.

I am not sure that even now I properly understand what Bohm was saying, but I am left with the feeling that anything we can think is a child of how we think. If there is no way of thinking that is truly free, or independent of our selves and our interests, then it is important to examine how it is we are thinking about something. Not to try to get rid of that way of thinking, but simply to make it visible.

Which suggests that a good question to ask, in almost any circumstances is: ‘How are we thinking about this?’

It seems to me that this is an example of a philosophical question that is extremely practical. Imagine that any meeting, or conversation in any context – be it business, politics, education or anything else – began with people asking ‘how are we thinking about this?’.

What then might be possible….?