Is there a good time and place to be alone and do some serous thinking?

Louis L’Amour in "The Man From The Broken Hills" talks about how cowboys do it: “Riding night-herd when things are quiet is a mighty easy time for thinking. It’s mighty still out there and the cows are companion enough. You just set your horse, letting the natural habit of your mind listen and notice anything with the herd, and then your thoughts go where they will.”

If you thought Louis L’Amour novels were beneath your taste in literature, it’s probably because you’ve never read one.

Albert Einstein was no cowboy, he was the most famous genius of all time and he found time to think. After dropping out of school at the age of 15, he studied math and physics at the Swiss Polytechnic in Zurich, Switzerland, but couldn’t get a job for two years. Then he was hired as a patent examiner at the Swiss patent office where he found the work boring. In his spare time, he would go sailing alone in his little sailboat. When the wind didn’t blow, he didn’t notice he wasn’t moving and he sat there for hours with a little notebook and pencil, thought and worked formulas.

At the age of 28, he came up with the theory of relativity (E=mc2 -– energy equals mass times the velocity of light squared). If you don’t understand how it works, I’ll explain it to you sometime for a cup of coffee. The famous formula became a foundation stone in the development of atomic energy. Einstein believed that the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind. He suggested that young scientists should be employed as lighthouse keepers so they would have time for undisturbed thinking.

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If you need boredom to stimulate your mind, you might engage in watching paint dry or listening to the “poetry” of some cool rapper.

More productive, I suggest that you take a long walk alone (and without music in your ears) off the beaten path and ignore everything but the sun, the wind, the clouds and the birds.

At the end of your hike you may discover an answer to your question, new questions entirely or yourself.

One other opportunity for thinking time, but I don’t recommend it, is jail time. A lot of thinking takes place in jail. You won’t be able to take your horse there, but I’m sure they’ll allow a pencil, a small tablet and a Louis L’Amour novel. When you check in, be sure to request a private room.

Grammar: You may not care about grammar, but I do. In a recent article, the following expression appeared: “I knew he’d wrote it” (correctly, that should have been either, “he wrote it” or “he’d written it”). My articles are dictated, then typed, then proofed before going to the paper. I dictated “he wrote it,” but I mumbled and it came out “he’d wrote it.” I know better, but I read it before it went into print and I missed it. My fault.