My crazy thoughts about thoughts

I have a very vivid imagination.

I think I was just 10 years old when a friend found me sitting on a bench staring blankly up to a 18 story building in our neighbourhood.

He asked me: “Miguel, what are you thinking?”

I looked at him with a puzzled look: “Errr… well…”

Then I realized:  “wow, am I actually thinking that? should I tell?.. ok, what the heck…”

So I told him I was trying to calculate how long it would take for a person to hit the ground if he/she jumped from the 18th floor.

Based on his reaction I quickly decided not disclose what was in my mind again – unless it was “socially acceptable”.

I still get that blank look all the time. It doesn’t mean I am thinking anything weird, it’s just means I’m lost in my thoughts. You could say my mind is a constant thought party.

It’s not just me however…

According to a few estimates the average person has about 60,000 thoughts every day. That amounts to about a thought per second during our waking hours.

With so many thoughts occupying our minds no wonder we get lost in them all the time!

Thoughts about our past (memories), present, future (predictions and worries), about us and others, about things, good thoughts, bad ones, neutral ones, sexy ones, funny ones, amazing ones, stupid ones, revolutionary ones, and of course, crazy ones.

Even if just one thought in a thousand was completely bananas that would still amount to 60 crazy thoughts per day. Or about 4 nutty thoughts per hour, or one nutty thought every 15 minutes.

If that estimate happened to be accurate, it would mean that at any given point during the day, there is a 7% chance to be within 60 seconds of your next crazy thought… that’s a crazy thought in itself, isn’t it?

That summer afternoon, in Bilbao, in the late 80’s, my friend just happened to ask about my thoughts within that 7% crazy thought window, and I just happened to provide an honest reply.

But what constitutes a thought?

There isn’t still a consensus as to what a thought exactly is. The only thing that is certain is that we have many thoughts and that not all thoughts are equal.

I like to think of thoughts as the atomic unit of thinking. And like atoms (until particle accelerators were invented) thoughts are indivisible. The concept of half a thought doesn’t make sense. You either have a thought or you don’t.

Another interesting property of thoughts is that you can only think of them sequentially. That is, you cannot have two thoughts at the same time.

That means you can only think of one thing at a time. For instance, you cannot think “dog” and “cat” at the same time.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have thought processes running in the background while you are thinking of “dog” but you only can be aware of one thought at a time.

Is a thought running in the background still a thought? that would be a subconscious thought, right?

So how many subconscious thoughts do we have every day versus conscious ones?

What if 99% of our thoughts were subconscious? how would that affect our concept of free will?

If all our actions stem from thoughts but we are unaware of most of our thoughts, are we acting 99% of the time guided by our subconscious thought processes?

Wait… are you starting to get a bit of thought overload?

Well, since we are here, let’s just go for the gold and end with a grand finale of 15 possibly unanswerable questions about thoughts… starting with…

  1. ​How much does the average thought weigh?
  2. Is it possible to overclock your brain and increase your thought frequency?
  3. Can thoughts have sex and spawn other thoughts?
  4. How does thought intercourse happen at a molecular level?
  5. How does the brain know how to separate a thought from the next one?
  6. Can two opposite thoughts cancel each other into oblivion like matter and anti-matter?
  7. Can all thoughts be verbalized – explained with words?
  8. How much of the essence of a thought is lost when we try to explain it with language?
  9. Does the process of expressing a thought verbally modify the original thought?
  10. Is art but a channel to express thoughts that cannot be explained or described using language?
  11. How does the lack of language or the ability to speak several languages affect our ability to form thoughts?
  12. To what degree can thoughts have an effect in healing disease?
  13. Is there any part of reality that cannot be thought of?
  14. Will machines in the future be able to form more complex thoughts than humans?
  15. Can a thought formed via neuronal electrochemical interaction be accurately replicated by silicon based transistor technology?

So… what are your thoughts on these thoughts?

Or better, how about a cookie for your… you know what 😉

Miguel

P.S: Are you overwhelmed with too many thoughts after reading this? Try meditation. It’s like pressing an imaginary mute button on your thoughts and it feels muy bueno… oh yeah.

P.2: If you missed last week’s email you can read it HERE.

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