One of the questions I asked last post is what is thought? If thought is flawed how is it flawed? Bohm’s hypothesis is that thought is a system. A system, as we generally understand it, is something complete with every sub-piece doing its job. We see this most clearly in the world of technology and machines. Every machine, especially complex ones, has a organizing principle that governs it. We call this the specification of the machine or the specs of how it performs. Even in the natural world we call our solar system a system or the way that atoms function a system. What makes them a system is an organizing principal that governs there behavior. In the case of the solar system the principal is Newton’s Theory of Gravitation. In the atoms case it is the theory of quantum mechanics. These principles determine the behavior of the pieces of the system and let us predict how those pieces will act.
If this is the case and thought is a system what is its operating principle? What governs its behavior and what can make it go wrong? We need to understand this because if we can’t do this then maybe thought isn’t a system and we are expecting too much from it. I will delve more deeply into this question later but this is a blog post, not a deep philosophical paper so for now I’m going to continue to talk about the phenomenon of thought. Hopefully in future posts this will let us focus our attention on what thought’s principles are.
To let you know how I decide things you must understand that I am a phenomenologist. This means any thoughts or theories I have are judged by how they explain the phenomenon. Some call this the data. If my explanations can’t describe what I experience then my explanations are suspect. Secondly, I think that most human nature is evolutionary. This means that it developed in a gradual fashion under the pressures of survival. So mistakes or dead ends can still exist in our species. This means human systems by their very nature can be flawed because they are a work in progress. We so often treat thinking as if it is complete. We tend to believe that our thought processes are perfect and that the mistakes or disasters we create are accidents. Or in the case of religion that are basic nature is evil and we pollute everything we touch. We are so wedded to the idea that our differences from the animal kingdom come from thought that we don’t recognize how rudimentary our ‘thinking’ is.
Let’s tiptoe into the minefield of what thought is. Do we control our thoughts? Do we originate our thoughts? Where do our thoughts come from and what do we do with them? Most of you will say that we control our thoughts and we are the origin of our ideas. If you believe that I challenge you to get yourself a small 4 by 6 inch notebook and jot down your thoughts as you become aware of them. Write down under that thought what generated that thought and what sparked it. Where did it come from? Try to do this for a minimum of 4 hours. Now examine your notebook and write down how many of these thoughts you had are about the past or future. If you are like most people more than 90% of your thoughts are about memory or fantasy(the future). We humans live in the present. It is the way we act too, in the present. If 90% of our thoughts are about the past or future what does it say about those thoughts. Now one last thing to do with your notebook entries. Look at the thoughts about the past and future and tell yourself (write it down!) how many of those thoughts originated from emotion. Past thoughts: regret, anger, revenge, sorrow; future thoughts: hero feelings, getting the love of your life, accomplishing great things.
As we pursue these origins let us be open to the nature of these things called thoughts. Thinking is like a well used tool, such as a hammer. The difference is that we know the purpose and uses of the hammer. If you try to get a screw out of a wall with a hammer it will work but the wall will be a wreck. If we use thought outside its purpose what is it wrecking? If you stay in the moment and use thought in the moment how is it different than using it for the future and past?