Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Familiar Thoughts

This morning, I poured myself a glass of milk and noticed as I poured it that I was thinking the same random thought I'd had the day before when I poured myself a glass of milk. But that wasn't all, for yesterday I'd noticed that very same thing repetitious thought when I poured myself a glass of milk.

Moreover, in recent days, I've discovered more repetitious thoughts. It seems when I put on my shoes, the same thought pops into my head as when I last put them on. When I brush my teeth, I have the same thought as the last time I brushed my teeth. These are all different thoughts -- I don't think the same thing putting on my shoes as I do brushing my teeth -- but they are in each circumstance the same thought today as they were in that same circumstance yesterday.

It seems so many of the spontaneous thoughts I have on a given day are repetitious.

I can guess at a simple explanation for it. Some of the neurons in my brain have made more or less random associations between, say, putting on my shoes and my memories of the weather on a certain day last week. So, when I put on my shoes those neurons are prompted to fire and I remember the weather on that day. It doesn't surprise me that happens. What has surprised me in recent days is how much it happens.

So many of my thoughts are familiar to me that I'm beginning to suspect the brain is an extraordinarily repetitious animal. It seems to like ruts. As I was going to the laundry room a few minutes ago, it occurred to me (for the first time, apparently), "These repetitious thoughts are comforting. They reassure me I am the same person I was the day before. They provide a semblance of stability in an ever changing world. Yet, that semblance of stability is based on the mere repetition of thoughts, the repeated firing of the same neurons, rather than on the stability of events. Is it therefore illusionary?"

I didn't pursue the idea very far. It's one of those notions that can be tested through observation, so I decided to simply wait and watch rather than try to reason it out.


ordinarygirl said...

You could make the argument that anything that occurs only in our mind is illusionary, but I don't believe that's true. Stability is a relative thing in your own mind and if you perceive it in a specific way then it is reality. It's only when you share your reality with others that the relativity of it can be real or illusionary. Is that too philosophical? Does it even make sense?

Paul said...

I'm not sure I'm following you, Ordinary Girl: Could you elaborate a bit?

ordinarygirl said...

For something subjective like a feeling, only you can judge whether you feel it or not. It's completely within your mind, so maybe it is illusionary in that sense, but it's reality to you because only you can feel it for yourself.

I guess you could argue that it's a false sense of security, if you find you're not really secure, but without further experiences the feeling at that moment is reality.

ordinarygirl said...

You might also find this article on consciousness interesting: