Friday, January 05, 2007
Thoughts are strange. I don't mean anything thought in particular, I meanthoughts as a "thing". What is a thought? It's nothing solid, nothingvisible, it has no smell. They're intangible and inexplicable, yet we havethem all the time! Electrical impulses, whizzing and buzzing, long phrasesinvolving the word nueron... that doesn't explain much. Why and how do wethink? And why, if it's a biological thing and all humans are human, areall our thoughts different? Where's the evolutionary benefit in having anopinion or thinking differently from a peer? What benefit or detrimentdoes a thought bring to an individual? Perhaps we only think we'rethinking. I doubt that I am doubting! I love a good paradox. At least, Ithink I do. I think I think I do... and so on. Why does my brainunderstand cryptic crosswords, when other people struggle? Why do numbersand scientific terminology pass me by when other people comprehend them soeasily? How does my brain look at a phrase like "Way of living involvingsilly feet" and figure out it means "Lifestyle"? The human head must be aremarkable place, yet we all just wander around taking them for granted.After all, everybody's got one and it can't be that special if everyone'sgot one!You only have to look at learning processes and memory to be astounded. Achild learns to walk and talk and eat, learns the words to a nurseryrhyme, learns that fire is hot and ice is cold. All of these things formhabits, impulses, reactions, memories, a myriad of vague concepts andactions which somehow translate into an adult's knowledge of the world.For instance, a child may touch a hot pan and get burnt. The child recoilsautomatically (even more astonishing, he didn't even have to learn to pullhis hand back, it just happens), and he is in pain. He knows then that hotthings burn and hurt, and knows to avoid such things in future. Thus, asan adult he uses oven-mitts. He probably never even consciously remembersthe first time he got burnt, he just knows what would happen.Songs always intrigue me... take a set of words, say them to somebody oneor two times, and they'll no doubt forget most of the words. But stringthose words together into a tune, set it to music, and it sticks in thehead! It's as though the brain recognises and remembers the PATTERN ratherthan trying to remember the WORDS. It knows what comes next.A person should try never to lose certain qualities of childhood. Thesense of wonder and awe should be retained, the curiousity should neverfade. Looking at the world through the eyes of a child but with theunderstanding of an adult is a wonderful experience. It is for me, but foryou it just means that you've read a long blog filled with unansweredquestions.