“Now put on your thinking caps,” the teacher said to the first graders. Each one gripped an imaginary cap and settled it upon his head in preparation for the task set before him. It would be hard. The brain would be stressed and strained. Probably soon there would be steam puffing from the caps’ edges while it whistled or rattled or forced its way down upon the head. Hard work was ahead. The think-cap made ready.
What was the magic of that cap? It was imaginary, after all. No one could see it or feel it, yet every first grader had one. Nary a one hesitated to don it. With glee, we pulled them out and settled them on our heads. To ready ourselves for the task ahead, the question to be posed, the answer to be searched. And this was not scary for us. We did not dread that we might not get the right answer or be slower than our classmates at arriving there. Our thinking cap would transport us…through thinking time.
First graders have this magic, naturally. When instructed to put on their cap, they do. Their hands grasp what they don’t see and wrap around what they don’t feel and lift it to balance on top of their heads. The magic isn’t in the cap; it’s in them. And in the ritual of “putting on the thinking cap.”
Just think. What if we, before our day, our tough conversation, our monumental task, put on our thinking cap? Simply. Not supposing an outcome or force-fitting a solution, simply the putting on. Oh, now don’t look around to see if everyone else is doing it or what their hats look like or how they fit. Just put yours on. Feel it. Lift it. Settle it. Balance it. Check out how it feels to have a thinking cap on. How do you look?
So much of my normal, adult, after first grade life falls prey to the just-get-me-to-the-top/answer/end-ness. Let’s take the elevator and get this over with. Transport me to “right” as quickly as possible. Extract me from here and land me right there.
Ah, but when I take the stairs, especially the shallow stairs…step by step, climbing, slowly, regularly, rhythmically, I lose myself in the upward. The marble rises before me but does not overwhelm or tire me. It receives and turns me up and around, up and over, up and up and… The stairs are my think time. Time to carry myself toward the above.
Perhaps this is why God doesn’t say Let me lift you over the tough stuff. Because in the climb we have time to put on our thinking. And even to take in the views on the way up. So when we arrive at the top, we know how we got there and know just what to do. He doesn’t leave us and He doesn’t leave us unprepared.
Rituals and rhythms, given their time, offer resonance that silences what surrounds so we can focus on what centers. In that place, all else falls away. Flight after flight after flight.
Imagine. At six we just needed to hear: It’s think time. Everyone put on your thinking caps! And, without thinking, we did. My hat today is pointy and turquoise, sparkling, with tassel a-top. I have fastened the elastic strap below my chin. This may be a wild ride.