Don’t make them think

If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; But if you really make them think, they’ll hate you.

Don Marquis

I lived in Denver in the late ’80s. At one point I met an acquaintance who invited me to attend his monthly book club. I was in a heavy reading phase and was excited about the prospect of connecting with fellow book lovers. I was encouraged to bring a book and plan on sharing a favorite passage.

The book I happened to be reading at the time was The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and the passage I picked to read turned out to be pretty heavy. You see, the entire short story of Ivan Ilyich is about a man who discovers that he is dying. In his final days he has the painful revelation that he has lived his life as a facade, doing everything that his parents, his family, his church, and his community expected of him, at the expense of being true to that still small voice in his soul. Thought provoking to say the least.

I will never know with certainty why I was not invited back to this small group of literature buffs, but I never heard from them again. Telephone calls to my contacts at the group where never returned (this was long before the days of email and Facebook). No doubt, I came across too intense, for I was wrestling at the time with the very ideas that haunted Ivan Ilyich.

Since then I have learned to temper my intensity. I have also learned that pushing people too hard to make them think can have unintended consequences. It’s okay to make people think they are thinking. Just be careful when you really start to make them think.

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