I was talking with an old friend on Easter morning, a friend from the church that I used to attend. I can't remember exactly what we were talking about. Maybe computers. He said he had never been able to grasp computers. He doesn't have the knack for abstract thinking. I asked him what the alternative is to abstract thinking and we concluded it must be concrete thinking.
While concrete thinking generally expresses itself in absolutes, black and white, right and wrong, good and evil, heaven and hell, God and Satan, abstract thinking doesn't require absolutes. Abstract thinking lies somewhere between the lines. Abstract thinking finds the color that lies between black and white. Abstract thinking finds the love that exists somewhere between right and wrong, between good and evil. In the words of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, "If you wanna get to Heaven you gotta raise a little hell."
My mind is lodged like a beached log in a river drive somewhere between abstract and concrete thinking. I don't know how it got that way, but I think I grew up primarily in a world of concrete thinking, in a world of absolutes. I broke from that mold in my mid-teens when I realized how dumb the early 1960s version of "The Creation" was as compared with the obvious alternative, evolution. At that time, the Biblical creation was presumed to have taken place about ten thousand years ago. Things have changed since then. I think now it's up to around forty thousand years ago. The dinosaurs were either in a previous creation, or never existed and God created the fossil record just to test our faith in the Bible, or all measures of time are in error and they actually did live and die within the past 40,000 or so years. The convenient answer is that all lost species and the fossil record happened at the time of "the flood."
As dumb as that whole debate seems, for me the acid test was that if life had to have a beginning, so did God, and if God didn't have a beginning, well He must not have lived. I abstracted my own little absolute, I suppose. But in doing so, I guess I opened up a door to the possibility of allowing myself to have more abstract thoughts. One of those thoughts was that I should try drugs. I tend to sense that most people haven't really tried drugs, at least not to the extent that I did, but many people have and have discovered abstract thoughts beyond the imagination of any concrete thinker. I sometimes wonder if abstract thinking may have originated eons ago when humans discovered such things as hallucinogenic mushrooms or the effects of burning hemp or who knows what else. I think the main reason society fears mind-altering drugs is because society fears abstract thinking. Society is built on absolutes. Society frames reality in absolutes. So drugs that shatter absolute concepts are threatening to the shepherds of society as well as to the sheep.
Love is an abstract. Beauty is an abstract. Forgiveness is an abstract. Truth is an abstract, and God is truth.
I wonder, though. Could it be that hate finds its base in absolutes? Could it be that there would be no way for one man to pass judgment against another if it weren't for the absolutes of concrete reasoning? Is "the deceiver" in fact concrete thought? Mind you I'm not saying it is, but I'm pondering the possibility.
This friend, by the way, flew Hueys in Vietnam and later fought forest fires with them. Hats off to him... a man of precision with nerves of steel.