by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
A theory is part of that fuzzy area called abstract thinking. It’s like a witty saying, something of general application, a concept without thinking of a specific example. The danger, however, is that its resourcefulness may exist only in the mind, not in reality. It is on this point that many theories become snagged and tend to lose their momentum. For a theory to maintain its thrust, it must somehow be grounded, otherwise it is merely the recitation of unattached intelligence, a rhetorical device which does little other than confound and irritate the audience (particularly useful for the likes of politicians, for example, when speaking in the House or to the media, or to an annoying constituent).
While I haven’t said as much, it is also true that a rewarding theory may be usefully shared with those to whom one feels inclined to be a mentor. It is the happy accident of getting old to discover some secrets worth sharing with younger and inexperienced people. Such knowledge, as with any subtle thinking, is always only truly imparted if it can be done in simple terms. The moment the theory becomes complicated, the thread is lost! Theories must in effect speak for themselves, almost as self-evident truths.
As one learns to live by these hard-earned theories, the world is essentially turned upside down. Where once the motivation came from such and such a resource, now it comes from the complete opposite end. This result is not surprising, when one recalls that the abstraction of theories is to move from the particular to the general; whereas, life in the trenches is more often than not moving from the general to the particular. To continue the metaphor, a good deal of the appeal of theoretical thinking is that it uplifts one from the muck of daily living, removing one from the fray, allowing one to be resourceful and productive without getting your hands dirty. Of course you still need a theory that works, but that’s what living and getting old is all about.