“First ponder, then dare” (Helmuth von Moltke).
IT’S TRUE THAT MOST OF US NEED TO BE MORE ADVENTURESOME, BUT IT’S ALSO TRUE THAT WE NEED TO PONDER OUR DEEDS BEFORE WE DO THEM. As von Moltke says, the correct order of action is: “First ponder, then dare.” And the more consequential the dare, the more profound should be the pondering that precedes it.
“Ponder” comes from the Latin pondus (“weight”). It means to consider something carefully. When we ponder, we “weigh” an idea in our minds, thinking how significant it is or, if the thought is one of action, what its outcome might be. Pondering is more than casual thinking — it is thinking with painstaking care and thoroughness.
There is no better way to build credibility than to be a person who ponders things. And in fact, we shouldn’t have much credibility if we don’t consider things carefully. If we’re known to act rashly, we’ll not be those whom our friends turn to in time of need or difficulty. Our carelessness will keep us from being as trusted as we’d like to be.
The notion that ideas can be “weighed” in our minds ought to be of more than passing interest. Contrary to what many seem to think nowadays, not all ideas are equal and interchangeable. Some have more weight than others; that is, some are more true, significant, helpful, beautiful, and so forth. The challenge in thinking is to discern, by pondering them, which ideas are weighty and which are not. When we’re making decisions, we need to let the weighty ideas count for more, and pay somewhat less attention to the lighter-weight trivia. And the same principle applies when we’re weighing our words.
Being a person who ponders things may sound pretty dull, as if that person never did anything but think. But the truth is, life is never dull when we’re in a receptive state of mind. Those who take the time to ponder the world and its happenings find that surprises often break into their reveries. When we ruminate and meditate and cogitate, we open the doors of our minds to . . . who knows what?
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
(Edgar Allan Poe)