“If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.”

George S. Patton, General U. S. Army

"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

Mark Twain

"The ancestor of every action is thought."


"All that we are is the result of what we have thought."


"When you are not told what to do you begin to think what to do."

Roger Cohen, Op-Ed Columnist New York Times

"No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking."


"Never be afraid to sit awhile and think."

Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

"You and I are not what we eat; we are what we think."

Walter Anderson, The Confidence Course

"Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?"

Winnie the Pooh

"Time to think matters ─ at least if we’re interested in getting the answers right."

Stephen L. Carter

"Thinking is always out of order, interrupts all ordinary activities and is interrupted by them."

Hannah Arendt, Life of the Mind

"Too often we…enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

John F. Kennedy

"The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than with their minds."

Will Durant

"Thinking is like living and dying. Each of us must do it for himself."

Josiah Royce

"Some people get lost in thought because it's such unfamiliar territory."

G. Behn

"The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking."

Albert Einstein

"Pursuing our thoughts in silent contemplation takes an investment in time that few can spare."

Stephen L. Carter

"A moment’s thinking is an hour in words."

Thomas Hood

"Sometimes I think and other times I am."

Paul, Variete: Cantiques spirituels 192

"To think is to differ."


"To think is to live."


"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."

William Jones

"What we think, we become."


"Our job is not to make up anybody’s mind, but to open minds and to make the agony of the decision-making so intense you can escape only by thinking."


"The person who thinks before he speaks is silent most of the time."


"Think ─ and you will be very lonely."


"Thought is action in rehearsal."


"We live in a world that leaves very little time to contemplate."


"Don’t worry too much about what people think because they seldom do."


"Invest a few moments in thinking. It will pay good interest."


"One cannot think crooked and walk straight."


"Think Differently + Do Things Differently = Better Results"


June 22, 2016

Finding Time to Wonder

Tags: General,

I recently flew north to see my niece Cait receive her degree in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, the place where “fun goes to die.” I might not have been so excited about the trip had I known I’d be sliding off my chair from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at an outdoor graduation ceremony held under a blazing 95 degree sun...or that they would read aloud the name of every single graduate...all 1500 of them. I was beginning to think that UChicago was the place where I was going to die.

In between gulping down bottles of water and trying to kick-up a breeze with my University-supplied paper fan, I actually learned quite a lot at the ceremony.

I learned that the translation for alma mater is “nourishing mother” (not “send money”).

I was reminded that people in academia have titles that would never fit on a standard size business card.

Our keynote speaker, David Nirenberg, for example, is the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, the Departments of History and Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College; Dean of the Division of the Social Sciences. In his spare time he writes books focusing on relations between religions.

As a medieval authority, Nirenberg explained the medieval roots of a modern university, drawing our attention to the Gothic buildings around the courtyards that surrounded us and the cloisters entered through pointed arches.

I learned that the traditional graduation robes, all our degrees (Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate), honors (cum laude) and diplomas (parchment) evoke ancient symbolism. Yet ironically, universities are one of the most future-oriented institutions in the world, “...devoted to looking beyond the horizons of the known, and to preparing their students for lifetimes to come.”

What all of us already knew was that this prep time doesn’t come cheap. These graduates (their parents and the federal government) shelled out over a quarter-of-a-million dollars to get a seat at this ceremony where they were rewarded with Nirenberg’s observations about “time,” or more specifically, “a time of mind,” something that is particular to the life of a student, but hard to hold on to as adults with families, careers and financial responsibilities.

Nirenberg told us something most of us knew or experienced: “Time at a great university is different from other types of time in the world...in the extraordinary freedom it gives its inhabitants to shape it as it will: when to sleep, eat, study, love, play...a freedom of choice in matters that we probably did not have before and will not have again.”

We learned that the ancient Romans called this time for contemplation otium, a gift of university time, “a unique zone of exemption...where students can dedicate years to reach insights which require a degree of exemption from short-term time horizons of the everyday world.”

Nirenberg challenged the students to “take this ability to choose your ‘time of mind’ into the world” (where I fear it won’t be long before they discover that they are exempted from time to think but still expected to crank it out).

He argued that “time of mind” is a prerequisite for all great discovery which he defined as “rendering the familiar strange, provoking you to wonder.”

Finally, he offered a riddle of sorts worth sharing and contemplating:

“What is familiar is what we are used to, and what we are used to is the most difficult to know...the greater discovery lies in becoming aware of our most basic assumptions so that we can question them and make them strange.”

Anita Alvare (bio)/Alvare Associates/610-520-6140

University of Chicago   David Nirenberg   A time of mind

Since establishing Alvaré in 1981, Anita has guided the agency through more than 30 years of steady growth and success. A marketing communications entrepreneur who has done it all, she remains deeply involved in strategic planning and creative direction, bringing extensive knowledge and insight to each client project.


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Comments (2)

Donna Miller

So glad you were able to relay this message, despite flirting with heatstroke. So much more to his words than the “wear sunscreen” type of speech.


Love your blogs.
I agree that we should always look at life with “new eyes” and become more aware of our repetitive and addictive, routine thought and behavior patterns.
Perhaps they (U of Chicago graduation planners) should have found a new way to shorten the graduation ceremony. 
Listening to 1,500 names in the blazing sun sounds like torture.
Glad you survived!  I believe that I might have given myself a “zone of exemption” and booked for Wrigley Field after the first few names were read.