I took this photo on a recent visit to Mogo Zoo on the south coast of NSW.

Although small, the zoo is a neat and well-run establishment that boasts, among a number of interesting exhibits, a pride of white lions bred from individuals with a rare mutation that occurs on occasion in and around the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Clearly the photo is not of a lion but an advertisement for a zoo experience. For $200 you can spend some time petting a serval (Leptailurus serval), an equally magnificent African cat similar, if somewhat larger and with longer legs, than the domestic variety. Servals are relatively common and widespread in sub-Saharan Africa and specialize in pouncing on rodents in the long grass of the savannas.

And here I have to admit to a huge contradiction in my head, for I have had the privilege of seeing serval in the wild. When in their element they are just as magnificent as any of their bigger cousins.

It was easy to conjure from memory the image of the cat in the grass lit by the orange glow of the sunrise, standing alert with an indescribable sense of belonging.

So my gut response to the advert was that no amount of enclosure landscaping or attention to the visitor experience could come close to the truth of seeing these animals where they should be.

Then I saw the look on the visitors face.

I realized that you do not need to go to Africa to find the truth.

Funny that.


Do we think enough or too much? It’s an interesting question with chalk or cheese answers depending on where you try to find them.

According to Parnell McGuiness writing in the Sydney Morning Herald we are not thinking enough because our breakneck media cycle and the domination of the lobbyist has eroded true thoughtfulness on the big issues. Immediacy and a need to be right have reduced the extent to which we really explore a challenge and so we have become stuck in a narrow range of options. Discussion has been reduced to argument and no one seems able or confident enough to subject their view to serious interrogation.

I must say I have to agree. Our serious media reports more on style than substance from our leaders, although to be fair, this is because there is so little substance to discuss. The intellect is there. It cannot be that so many highly educated individuals cannot figure things out or engage in the necessary debate on issues that are difficult to resolve. Yet it is hard to find that debate. Instead we are given the extremes of opinion without the logic flow that led the proponents to their definite conclusion.

McGuiness suggests a return to true open-ended questions such as ‘What is happiness?’ As opposed to the already constrained “Can we be happy in a capitalist society?” Implying that we have become too constrained in our thinking for thinking to be effective. She has a point. And her solution is that we create more fertile thinking places and get to it.

Then there are the new age types who tell us that we think too much. We live in a mental fog created by our thinking brain that makes it very hard to see the truth. Constant brain chatter has made us fearful of the future and a slave to all our past psychological damage. If we could only stop all that noise and intuit then we would know instinctively what must be done.

This spiritual solution, that is hardly new having been around in various guises for millennia, is to take up meditation, yoga and gentle walks in the countryside or any activity that will help our chatterbox brains take a breather. In short, think less.

So are we not thinking enough or are we thinking too much?

Well there is definitely too much chatter going on in our heads. We are far too easily distracted by the inane, argumentative and opinionated. And what is it with the thousands of TV dramas in which there is either murder, infidelity, corruption or, preferably, all three. Our minds are so stimulated that it is no surprise they are manic.

So yes, we think too much. And we could all do with some quiet and quieting time.

Only then we need to re-engage our thinking minds with the wisdom we will find in those quiet moments. We need our brains to help make intuition real because reality requires practical solutions. And they need some thought.

So maybe we each need a week of Vipassana meditation followed by a workshop at the nearest think tank. I wonder what kind of solution that would produce.


You can find the original essay on open-ended thinking by Parnel McGuiness in the latest issue of Binge Thinking