Haven’t posted much in a while. Continuing to work on my novel; my progress can be read about on my writing blog. Also making some slow progress on my search for Strong AI. Anyway, he’s a post about thinking.
As humans, we don’t very often turn our brains off, save for the deeper cycles of sleep. While awake, we’re almost always thinking about something.
So what are you thinking about? The possibilities include:
1. Going over stuff that happened. Perhaps to try to make sense of it. Perhaps to guess at other people’s intentions (which may lead to delusions). Perhaps to decide what you’ll do should you find yourself in the situation again.
2. Daydreaming. Just making up scenarios for yourself, putting yourself in really awesome situations that you’d love to live through, or really awful situations in an effort to prepare for them. A form of self-comfort or self-torture.
3. Deciding what to do. What should you eat for dinner? What movie should you watch? What book should you read? Should you take a shower now or later? What should you say to that guy you need to talk to? The answer is trivial, but still requires at least some thought.
4. Observing. Or, I might say, paying attention. Perhaps watching squirrels scurry along branches, or ants build their dirt mounds. Perhaps watching TV or listening to music or reading a blog post. This may be paired with another form of thinking, but you have to dedicate some brain power to making sense of what your watching or reading or listening to if you’re truly paying attention to it.
5. Deep problem-solving. This is when you’re solving a problem you’ve never solved before and don’t plan on needing to solve again. Perhaps a particular chess position. Perhaps a mathematical conundrum. Perhaps a philosophical consideration. Perhaps a scientific query. Perhaps an algorithmic design. Coming up with a solution (or coming to understand someone else’s solution) may take weeks, months, or even years, but the solution will usually result in a paradigm shift, forever shaping how you understand something from then on.
6. Praying. More than a recitation of memorized word sequences (though it may include them), I consider this to be a profound idea. In fact, I’m not even sure how to describe it off the top of my head. At it’s foundation, it’s a form of honest self-reflection, humble thankfulness for existing, and perhaps a request for something desired (forgiveness if nothing else). What makes it profound is the idea that the prayer is being heard by an entity you neither have the capacity to fully understand nor hear in return.
7. Meditating. Purposefully trying not to think about anything, or at least much less than usual. (There may be more to it depending on who you ask; I can’t claim to be a meditation guru.)
The first three or four are so easy that many spend their lives never daring to try to solve a deep problem or reflecting on the nature of spiritual things. So, the exercise is, as you’re going about you’re day, try to notice what you’re thinking about and perhaps try to think differently. If you’re spending all your time going over something or daydreaming, move on to some deep problem-solving. Try to come up with theories to explain something. If you’re spending too much time deciding what to do, try observing something. You’ll get new ideas. Obviously, try praying at some point, and thinking about the nature of God and life and eternity.