The way we think arguably informs the ways we’re living, those higher-level thoughts trickling down into our ideas and attitudes in life. At times, we might view the mind as this faithful mirror, reflecting life so we’re able to understand and rise above it; but, more often than not, it seems to distort and thereby alter the nature of our understanding.
It’s something I struggle with here, as generally I’m trying to find a constructive perspective in my writing. Around this time last year, I reached a point of feeling things were becoming restrictive, sucking the vitality out of ideas and pulling them along another path than I’d hoped. Experiencing something similar lately, I’m wondering if it’s not simply a part of thought itself?
The mind seemingly has this tendency to plan, to identify and follow threads to create systems that must be followed. Equally, a tendency to form grooves – patterns of thinking that can overwhelm ideas themselves with a tone, mood or weight that’s hard to shake off. As if thought wants to make everything fit some overarching narrative we’ve constructed, creating habits of thinking we risk being stuck with (Notes One).
Is this part of thought? This desire to “match” life, to condense our observations of it down into something manageable and, hopefully, meaningful. What is this process of attempting to wrap our heads round reality and draw conclusions that might somehow be true, coherent, worthwhile, helpful?
Why is it we look at life and want it to make sense? Of course, I am the kind of person who does seek that: wanting to dive deep, unearth the concepts, see the paths taken and grasp where we stand within human history (Notes Two). As thinking beings, it seems natural to me that we would both seek meaning and seek to have it woven through the systems we’re creating out in the world between people and within nature.
But, how “should” we feel about life? What should we make of “all this” given we’re capable of thought? How do our choices or tendencies with regard to thinking affect the ways we’re approaching existence? (Notes Three)
If we tend toward thinking we’re powerless, human nature is inherently flawed, and there’s nothing we can do to change these things then that surely influences our attitudes in life and the kinds of activities we might engage in. Alternatively, thinking life’s a battle where we must fight others for an advantage or to win them over to our ideas must also impact all our actions.
As ever, there simply aren’t easy answers. With this writing, my inclination is to seek meaning; much as that might run risks. Finding the right balance between seriousness and escapism is intriguing: that elusive line somewhere between depression, anger, laughter and endless distraction.
If thought sets us apart though, don’t we have a responsibility to use it wisely? Finding balanced, reasonable, realistic perspectives within a world of serious concerns certainly isn’t easy, but what choice do we have.
Notes and References:
Note 1: The need for discernment
Note 1: The sense of having a worldview
Note 1: Working through mind & society
Note 2: The value of a questioning attitude?
Note 2: What if it all means something?
Note 2: The power of understanding
Note 2: Respect, rebellion & renovation
Note 2: Do we need meaning?
Note 3: Matt Haig’s “Notes on a Nervous Planet”
Note 3: David Bohm, thoughts on life
Note 3: “Spiritual Emergency”
Note 3: Culture as reflection