Sometimes I wonder what we’re thinking. Not in the sense of frustration at where society’s headed (although there’s an element of that here at times too), but simply what it is that’s running through all our heads.
Are we tending towards this ongoing commentary of what we see out there, taking it all in, appreciating things or judging them in varying measure? Are we entertaining completely different thoughts, unrelated to what’s around us but springing forth from something else we might’ve seen or be preoccupied about? Are we synthesising what we see into a narrative, seeking meaning and the arc to our existence?
It’s interesting, because clearly all that goes on in someone’s mind is pretty much hidden from view. They might be aware of it, but they might not. We might sometimes be quite absentmindedly thinking without knowing what’s going on up there, unaware of where we are or how we appear to others. We might not know where our thoughts come from, as if they arise from nothingness but take us along for the ride.
After all, we have a lot of input. There’s our senses with all the messages they bring, memories they can stir up, and our sensitivity to all those things. There’s the physical spaces we occupy, with all the social and cultural relationships we have to navigate and find our place within. Then there’s the broader sense of life itself, our collective existence, and how precarious or valuable that all might be.
The options for what might occupy our minds are seemingly endless (see Notes One). And, with that, surely we’re running a few risks? The mind must have limited capacity, with a point we’ll get overwhelmed and be unable to process things wisely or reach appropriate solutions. There must be a stage where we want to shut off all the information we’re having to deal with, where it’s affecting our feelings and sense of inner peace.
At what point do we draw the line? If everything is real and everything is meaningful, how do we decide what actually matters? Were we to put filters on our minds, what criteria would we set and can we be sure of not tuning out something of absolutely crucial significance? And why are we living in such a way that this becomes necessary?
And ultimately it interests me because I care. About individuals, how they view themselves and their value in life. About our communities, whether we understand them rightly or if our actions might inadvertently be causing intense strain to something we rely upon. To my mind, the ideas we take in – the meanings we hold to and act upon – shape and sustain the world we all share in (Note Two).
Whether it’s a problem how we use our minds, the content running through them and what we let spill out into everyday life, seem like important questions. Because taking it all in hand, let alone communicating it with others, is becoming quite a massive undertaking.
Notes and References:
Note 1: What if it all means something?
Note 1: Nature tells a story, about the planet
Note 1: The web and the wider world
Note 1: Complexity of life
Note 1: The need for discernment
Note 2: What is real?