· Shared

“It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle — they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.”

–Alfred North Whitehead

“Avoidance of thought is a Good Thing. In some areas all this is noncontroversial, even obvious. Consider such practices as cooking, carpentry, playing a musical instrument, horseback riding and other sports. Each builds upon a foundation of physical skills and in each case mastery consists of performing with automatic facility. As a beginner you move slowly, thoughtfully, with conscious attention. In a disciplined way you repeat the same movements again and again. Think of Audrey Hepburn at the cooking school in Sabrina: “one-two-three, crack. New egg. One-two-three, crack. New egg…” Think of the scales and arpeggios with which as a budding pianist you train your hands. As you practice, you speed up and your movements alter so that they are less in your mind than “in your fingers”. The skill is gradually incorporated into muscle memory. Similarly when you learn a new piece, you move via repeated practice from conscious attention to unconscious mastery.”

–Ethan Akin