Building a sustainable and gratifying life is normally a person’s main thinking project. What we want from thinking breaks that down into something like the following list.

We want a life-sustaining engagement with nature. We want to know nature’s beauty and wonder, and to draw from its fruitfulness of food, energy, and other comforts and sustainers of life. (Science helps with this.)

We want to participate in authentic and loving attachments. We want to be enlarged and inspired by attachment to others, by encounters with great writings and works of others, to rise above self-absorption to experience a sense of disinterested justice and a devotion to justice. We want to inherit the whole legacy of human discovery, insight, and accomplishment.

We want to function competently in a cooperative production and exchange operation. (Vocational and professional programs emphasize this.)

A life can be analyzed as a system of production, consumption, and exchange but there are also considerations of subjectivity acting to relish personal intelligence and animal embodiment, as well as child nurturing family life, communal engagement, and a strictly personal orientation to cosmic god or nature. Sensing the importance of that whole range of interests, we want to protect ourselves from being enslaved, stunted, and exploited by production organizations or grandiose cultural spooks such as nations, religions, and corporations which promote and reward types of ‘groupthink’. Placed as thinking is between forces for social control and impulses for self-possession, we must be wary of stealthy attempts at external control of thinking. We want to protect ourselves from having our self-definition diminished by cultural categories and culturally assigned values. We want to understand the political, social, and economic issues engulfing us, legacies and realities of perennial class wars. (Humanities studies, history, literature, philosophy contribute to this.)

We want to create a personal mark on natural and cultural surroundings with the freedom enabled by deliberation and creativity. Labyrinthine subjectivity can present a challenge here. Freedom can’t be merely letting the subjective buzzing buzz and the bubbling bubble, although innocent play is a dimension of freedom. Innocent subjectivity alone and unfocused can be a bog of isolation, powerlessness, and nowhereness. A sort of thinking to experience freedom and self-possession needs development of a personal voice, a voice-avatar. Deliberation, discretionary actions, and creativity are required for expressive power, and those all share persistence and perseverance in building a unity of effort. That is building artifacts and complex orientations from the buzzing and bubbling. The same skill and impulse applies to digging into and investigating nature and culture. Digging can be building, carving out a shaped opening, a path through the wild unknown.

With thinking, innocence equals play, and for adults that includes the power to build in unsupervised authorship. The special thinking in focus here could be called deliberative play, the practiced creative process. (See also TED Talks, “The Play Manifesto”, Bulgaria.) However, the really revolutionary thing about play is that it is self-generated and removes much of the need to engage with markets.

We want to be fully acquainted with personal nature as intelligence without forfeiting animal embodiment, sensuality, and groundedness. We want to engage the experience of transcendence, the supra-natural freedom of intelligence. We want to be acquainted with that profundity that was hinted at or channeled by religion: to be in the world but not of it.

Copyright © 2011 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.