A Thought
By R. D. Flavin

9-5-2014


      Something caught his eye by the side of the road.  He couldn't make it out, but it seemed like it was alive.  A dog or a coyote, maybe.  But, it seemed to have more than four legs, and then it was just a fleeting image in his rear-view mirror.
     “Did you see something, dear?” his wife asked.
     He took his eyes off the road for a moment and looked at his wife sitting next to him.  Blonde, sophisticated, and a figure that had held up over the years.  She would have been the perfect wife if she'd been able to have children, but the Old Ones had decided otherwise.

      Conscious thought (as opposed to unconscious, i.e., sleep, coma, etc.) generally arises from sensory stimulation, though even without sensory input or ability, consciousness may and usually does produce 'thought'.  Non-sensory induced thoughts may form from independent stimulation, as in a “Eureka!” moment or from a random background problem or thinking process which may push itself to the forefront and appear suddenly as a conscious thought.  Like an actor going over his lines before he takes the stage, when we are consciously aware of our thinking process we formally consider an idea, answer, perception and describe such as a 'thought'.  How do thoughts form?   We hear, touch, taste, smell, or see something and our brain's memory function kicks in with associations derived from previous experiences and/or learned information.

      Consciousness is electrochemical activity in the brain.  As energy and matter (mass) combined to form life, so too does electricity and various chemicals (matter-mass) join to allow for brain function and thought.  It's been said there's actually only enough electricity in the human brain to power a tiny Christmas tree light-bulb for a mere two seconds.  So, there's NOT a lot of electricity in the brain, however there's enough to make the human brain capable of imagining the vastness of the universe, all it contains, and more.  And, naturally, too much electricity (or certain chemicals) is bad for the brain.  From minor forms of mental illness through epilepsy, with electroshock therapy and electrocution being at the negatively extreme end.  Conversely, of course, not enough electricity and the brain and consciousness go dark.

     Now, with the above in mind, we ask ourselves about plants that appear to 'communicate' with each other and also responsive plants like the Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula) who respond to touching or pressure.  The plants are not 'conscious' and they have no brain or nervous system per se, yet rudimentary 'communication' and movement occur.  As the human body maintains a lymphatic system to carry water (and waste) throughout our bodies, plants also have water-ways which spread water, nutrition, and certain chemicals throughout the plant.  [Note: For more on plant communication, see the online “How Plants Secretly Talk to Each Other” by Kat McGowan; http://www.wired.com/2013/12/secret-language-of-plants/]

      At times, for various reasons, thoughts are uncontrollable (beyond the normal wandering 'day-dreaming'...).  Usually such a lack of control is due to a mental defect or illness, a chemical imbalance because of disease, injury, or ...purposely or self-induced intoxicants, hallucinogens, or other mind-altering 'drugs'.  In some the severity is heartbreaking and irreversible, while in others there exist healing alternatives (surgery or medicinal chemical treatments).  For the less severe (slight or occasional and minor) mental impairment) or the conscientious ascetic, meditation and mind games (or exercises; see below) may help 'control' thought and reduce the unwanted and chaotic.

      Among the neo-atheists (Dawkins, Dennett, etc.) my fav is Sam Harris who went from outspoken and erudite atheist to, after getting a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA, someone who can explain how the brain works and the chemical responses to the emotional need for theistic existence and influence.  I mean, damn, if the Roman Catholic church can approve of scientists equating a 'soul' with being sentient and self-aware, then …we can establish a dialogue between the Religious and the skeptical scientists.  Not that it's not already happening to a small degree, but first we have to get the Fundamentalists to acknowledge reason and human equality.  In other words, …after the next Crusade.  I will still recommend reading my column: #104 5-21-99 “It'll Be Okay...” at: http://www.flavinscorner.com/okay.htm.  We gave religion its power and we can take it away...

      A thought (in humans and some other animals) is often responsive, yet sometimes original, despite the seemingly clever quips of Isaiah, Twain, and others that it's all been done or thought about before.  We understand the finite and get dizzy with the infinite, however we must leave logic for a moment and believe individuality does indeed exists, all is not preordained, and we'll discover both a cure for cancer and what a woman truly wants.  If you can think it, the world just got bigger (which could be a good or a bad thing depending on the thought).  Many thoughts vanish with the speed of unstable elements which exist no longer than a couple or three nanoseconds.  But some thoughts seem to endure a lifetime...  And, with exactitude, when a thought is recorded externally and archived, may exist forever...

      Sure, the mind can be a trickster at times despite the “seeing is believing” axiom-idiom.  Was that a smile or a smirk?  Four legs or six?  How can a cat be alive and dead at the same time?  Does she love me or just passing time?  And we have answers aplenty which are, again, a good or a bad thing...  Yet, we must be thankful even for the debate, the disagreement, and the eternal quest for the true and consensually accepted 'anything'.  That would be a miracle, indeed!

      “It was nothing,honey,” he answered.  “My mind wandered for a bit, that's all...”
     “Well, keep your eyes on the road, dear,” she advised.  “We wouldn't want to get into another accident!”
     “Everything's fine,” he assured her, even though he knew it wasn't.

Helpful works for better understanding the above:

Lovecraft, H. P. 1928. “The Call of Cthulhu.” Weird Tales. Listed as the February issue.

Masters, Robert E. L. and Jean Houston. 1972. Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space. New York: Dell. Great exercises!

Wilson, Robert Anton. 1983. Prometheus Rising. Phoenix, AZ: Falcon Press. Wonderful Zen-like exercises!

Pushing the barriers, always,
Rick             

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