It is easy to go through life assuming we know what we’ve got, and wearing blinkers and earplugs as an accidental consequence. Thinking is an art form. Challenging all that might be taken for granted is a skill to be practiced.
No one can thinkingly dismantle their world view in one go, without going mad. The method that makes art of this begins in a small way, and with a question. Why am I doing this? is a good one. What do I want? What does that really mean? Why is that happening? What good does this serve? There is an infinity of questioning to bring to the world. Pick one, manageable thing, and question it. I recommend ‘what do I want?’ for its power and simplicity and the way it can slice through the clutter of your life and mind.
What do I want? And then, why do I want it and what does it mean? It is like peeling an onion, as each layer removed reveals another layer beneath. There will always be more layers, because everything we learn creates new questions.
The next tool to master for the artist of contemplation, is dissatisfaction. Most specifically, a dissatisfaction with trite, empty answers that roll neatly off the tongue. Because I have been told to. Because it is my job. Because it is expected of me. Because no one else bothers. Just as the sculptor may chip away at rock, the artist of contemplation chips away at assumption. Somewhere beneath the surface, the beautiful shape of truth or insight is waiting to be revealed.
Anything can be questioned and considered. There is no topic beyond our scope, no sacred, untouchable cow, no issue of what is polite, or fair, normal or reasonable. The artist does not care if it is not the done thing to ask. The artist enquires, and seeks a useful answer.
By degrees the art becomes habit. It is not the work undertaken somewhere in a private studio. We carry it with us, as we might carry a sketchbook or camera, capturing details and thinking about them. Looking for motives and patterns underlying what we see. Finding evidence of harmony, and seeing places where harmony might be created or truth might be chipped out of the bland stone of normality.
We become aware of our own motives, knowing why we act before we do it, not needing to figure it out afterwards amidst the broken pieces and recriminations. We know how we feel, and why we feel that way, and the dance that is life becomes a good deal simpler for hearing the guiding drum beats of these feelings.
The more we think, and the more we practice thinking as art, the more resistant we become to bullshit. That which is ugly in its illogic, graceless in its circular thinking, foul-smelling with apathy or corruption, is more readily recognised. We know a surface when we see one. It becomes harder to herd or manipulate us by dangling corporate carrots before our noses or threatening us with something that is all noise and no substance.
The thinking artist is free to move through the world at much more their own pace, following the threads of their own tapestry, not hanging in confusion from the loom of another. Cultivating wisdom and understanding, artistry of the mind gives depth and substance to any other art we may wish to practice, be that a bardic art, or a life art.
It is often said that the Druids of old were philosophers. This does not mean that we, as modern Druids need to haul ourselves through the vast, often confusing array of thoughts taught under this heading. We could choose to, but it is not a requirement. Our own discernment and capacity to question are tools in all our hands. When we take up the instrument of refusal, not accepting the shiny surface explanations, we are living our art. Truth is an elusive thing, reality is often subjective. The questioning mind may not find neat and tidy answers, but instead may uncover a multiplicity of possibilities. Not being afraid to enter the chaotic, potential-laden realms, the artist of deep contemplation can see many truths, many perspectives, can seek balance between them, and find their own way forwards.