Monday, August 20, 2012

On Thinking about Thoughts

Language is dangerous. I say this because I am at awe with the realization about how language is used as a misleading tool for us to make sense of the world. There is no truth to the idea that language is what makes humans breathe with "understanding".

Pardon, what I am writing now is a product of raw thoughts converted into language so you can never expect consistency in what I say. See, this is what I want to demonstrate: right now, what I am doing is to make sense of an idea on how the use of language in reading, speaking, and writing is actually a dangerous task. I am doing this by ironically using language as a tool to clarify my idea. Even that, I still argue that this is a dangerous task.

For sure, philosophers might have thought about this idea that I am going to explore now. Well, of course they have, I recognize that. But I have to clarify that what I am about to write here stems from raw thinking; meaning I am thinking while I am typing and see if it makes sense. This thought-to-language-idea stems from me studying my own thoughts and how I make sense of them. It takes me back from what happened last week -- how my doctor cautioned me not to think too much otherwise my brain will send wrong signals to my body. Then I began to think more, thinking: how can I stop thinking? or more importantly, why I am always thinking excessively?

Instances of Thinking

The answer is that I find the truth in thinking -- in the raw forms of thought. I am in love with raw thoughts -- that's why I think a lot. I am in love with thought -- the truth, in its purest form. For instance, I love walking for hours in the morning because in that activity, I am able to foster my love for thoughts. I'll give a more concrete examples, when I walk, I look at nature.. I stop by and think whatever catches my eye. Two months ago, while jogging, I stopped by a small plant because the sun reflected the a shiny thread on it. It turned out that an orange spider was making its home. Until now, I am in love with that moment but until now, I cannot express it in words. This is a lame description of what I saw, of what I realized that day.

Another instance, I was passing by so many trees on the way to our dorm and I realized how nobody really touches these trees when they are living. We fail to realize that they, like us, are breathing too! They also have life but they can't talk, they are solitary, but they have life! I felt that it is so lonely to be a tree and just have a stationary life! But then again, the burden is on us, the people who can move because we have to wander, go somewhere, and find our home! I have already voiced this thought in poetry already when I wrote "Palm Trees" in 2011, but then I felt that the idea about trees and their existence with us is poorly articulated! Having so much time walking around UP and being able to pass by these solitary and stationary trees made me realize that, as a form of apology for grossly articulating my homage to them, I began patting them as I walk. Trees need warmth, I thought, so I slightly jump tap their leaves or lightly touch their branch.

Yes, I thought about those things -- those seemingly mundane occurrences in nature.  But I do not only think about trees and nature, I also think about dirt and trashes I see on the road while I walk. One time, I saw a trail of trash -- broken alcohol bottle, dog shit, biscuit wrapper, dead leaves -- and I wonder if there is a story behind them being there. I thought there must be a story behind these things why they are being dropped there. I thought -- the broken alcohol, the one who held it, surely something happened to him why he dropped it at that place. The dog, when it shat, it was mindless about the act but I wondered about what this lonely street dog ate! (Gross but it's lonely to think about: at night, where does it sleep? does the stray dog wake up and hopeful about the day ahead? About the biscuit wrapper, did a kid throw it and still felt hungry after?

Lastly, the dead leaves, even if lifeless, I thought of its fate -- its fate is to rot, even though the very act of its falling from the twig is, what is known us, freedom. As usual, I have written about dead leaves in an unfinished poem which remained unfinished because I could not fully articulate my thoughts -- the entire idea of what I am going to say -- in words. I talked about dead leaves "creeping for the color of the soil" -- leaves being in the state of decomposition and trying to blend with the soil's color and dying with it and becoming part of it.

Solitary, Dangerous Thoughts

Because of excessive thinking, people (like me) are already physically affected by mere thoughts. By that, I mean that thoughts breed loneliness because of the very reason of its existence. Thoughts are nebulous abstraction of how make sense of the world around us, of our existence, of our being here. The very nature of its existence cannot be "concretized" because they are raw and pure. They are solitary and not "graspable" by anyone or anything. I think about the sad lonely state of our ideas being "in the head" perhaps because I am an Atheist searching for the meaning of existence. I believe that people stick to the idea of having a "creator" lurking around the corner because the thought of someone being there for us is very comforting.

For many people, the thought that humans breathe upon their very thoughts that are solitary, unexplainable, and "unshareable" with other people is almost unimaginable. Being alone with thoughts can potentially kill, can destroy our very existence. It is more comforting for the religious to think that someone is there listening and knowing our thoughts. Comfort then becomes a refuge for many people -- it feeds their spirit. But I am not like many people. I am queer in my love for thoughts which others despise -- that's why they look for other people and share their views on things so the thought or idea won't be alone.

I am an atheist who has somehow resigned to the existentialist view on things: there is no meaning in our existence and it is us who create that meaning in our lifetime. Life is here and now. This is heaven and hell. When we die, we die like the leaves "creeping for the color of the soil". But why are human beings burdened by having thoughts? Why we? I still could not grasp that purpose. If I look at it in a rational manner, it is because through time, the human brain has acquired the mental capacity to fully grasp the things around us. That is why we have reached this level of civilization because humans fought with the loneliness of thoughts and, through time, created our preoccupation (and distraction) -- the technology. I could go and on with that discussion, but what if I will answer that purely from a philosophical perspective? Why are we given these lonely thoughts? If we look at it, these are the ones that somehow humanizes us because in it, we feel genuine sadness as well as love for mundane things that exist around us.

Dangers of Language

But is it useful to contemplate deeply, excessively, and fall in love with our raw thoughts? From my experience, no.. thinking does not do anything good for my physical health. But, in a way, I still marvel at the idea how pure our thoughts are and how language can subject it to danger. I am talking about the conversion of our thoughts. Thought brings about loneliness that we all avoid, either because we despise loneliness and our culture dictates that we aim for the "pursuit of happiness" OR being alone with mere thoughts naturally poses danger to our existence, to our physical health.

Because of the tendency for people to avoid being alone with thoughts, the natural mechanism is to convert it into language -- so that the thought will be free and it can interact with other ideas that will be useful to the existence of humanity. Language is an indispensable tool that made our existence, the human civilization, possible. I recognize that. I also recognize that using language is the only activity we can do to concretize our thoughts.. to give meaning to it.. to voice it out.. to let it free.

But then language itself is an obstacle and the word I will use to describe it is "dangerous" because of its very nature to be dynamic, to be fluid, to change. Earlier, I have established how thoughts in itself already present danger and uncomfortable feeling to those who possess them and love them (i.e. thinkers and writers suffer from mental illness precisely because they are alone with their thinking). I will argue that also the act of "freeing" thoughts through language is equally dangerous because it misleads our thinking, our decisions, then our actions, and our lives in general.

 1.) The act of converting thought to language

The first process that people naturally do to free their thoughts is to convert it into language. However, language is a limited tool because it cannot fully articulate an experience. We use language to voice out our thoughts through speaking. We also write to objectify thoughts through letters and words. Speaking poses more danger than writing because it is spontaneous. The conversion of thoughts to language is thought to be simultaneously existing with our thoughts. Conversion in speaking happens in a flash. Writing, on the other hand, takes time to complete.

I see the danger in speaking because contemplation is lacking. Remember, thoughts are already dangerous and when your thoughts become unexamined, they lose their true meaning. It is sad how society has somehow privileged the act of speaking than writing. In our daily lives, those people who interact well and who are "in control" of their thoughts and language appears to be the confident one, whereas the people who have a hard time gathering their thoughts are considered less. I am one of the people who is having a hard time with her thoughts while speaking. I feel like I am always in danger when I speak because I feel the need to ascertain my conversion of thoughts into language. I never noticed that, until in college, my good friends pointed how there are times that I am blabbering the things that I want to say. My mind is disoriented and I am too cautious with my conversion of thoughts into language.

On the other hand, we can look at writing as one of the activities that is closest to thought. But still danger lurks in writing because language, through letters, tries to make the thought "visible" or "graspable". The danger for the conversion of thought to writing lies in the fact that once thought is converted into language, it is now being objectified and becomes the subject of articulation. This is dangerous because the conversion itself is not what is really meant -- it is not the raw thought and we do not have the capacity for the conversion (earlier, I have established that how the thought is solitary and "unshareable" -- that is my basis for saying this sentence).

I have to say though that the closest way that language can articulate experience is through poetry. Poetry aims to create an experience out of words. That experience is capable of replicating raw thoughts that will imitate the original experience of the writer. But then the original thought lies on the writer, what we feel after reading a great poem is a poor replica of an experience. Some might argue that at least an experience is still created BUT it is very rare among us to be moved by an experience. The impact of a poem varies from person to person, depending on the level of concentration, level of understanding, the context, and the experiences that one has. The effect of a moving results to raw thoughts, that when we try to articulate more, we will doubly fail in misery.

2.) The act of concretizing language  

Because conversion is insufficient and unreliable, it can be said that speaking or writing the thoughts through language is misleading and unreal. For instance, most of us do not know what we do in life simply because language is incapable of making sense about what our thoughts wanted say. If what we try to say and write are unreal, the danger lies when these unreal "thoughts" are concretized into language. Concretization means that the thought is "released" through language by hearing the "thoughts", recording the "thoughts" and writing the "thoughts".

Once the illusion is created that the "thought" is free, people around us will now have the basis, on written or verbal record, about our supposed "idea". The assumption that what is written or heard is real can be dangerous because thoughts are subjected to influence. People around a person will take note of the "freed thought" on the assumption that it is the clear and right idea of a person. With this concretization lies the danger of influence because people will play with the idea through discourse and communication. Hence, the "fallacious" thought is being reinforced, played, and upheld!

3.) The role of influence and manipulation

Since thoughts are, by nature, unarticulated and unshareable, there is danger for it to be inconsistent through the process of converting it into language. Now, people around you who are misled that what you are speaking or writing are real can be the same people who can make you feel at loss. This is because they are misled by the conversion of language and we too are misled by other people's conversion of language. That is why misunderstanding is very prevalent in the society because our thoughts can never be fully realized or converted into language.

The danger of being miserably misled to take the wrong path lies in our articulation of thoughts. Once you articulate what you want, it does not always the thing that you really wanted... but then you concretize it and people assume that that is such. Then, they will try to feed your "thoughts" (the inconsistent once) with their own (which is also inconsistent!)

Love is in Thought

In my previous blog, I have articulated my thoughts on love and nature -- that love is imitative of nature in the sense that its existence is effortless. But now I realize that love resides in pure thought -- the raw ones, the real feeling -- that is free from language!

I guess I have to end my speculation about thoughts by quoting my previous essay about love -- simply because further discussion about thoughts and love require more intense love for thoughts, which I consider to be dangerous.

"I long to witness that moment when one actually reaches for the same wavelength -- without saying anything because words, in itself, do not have pure intentions, in the same way that raw thoughts and inner feelings have. The moment you convert feelings into words, it loses its natural form -- that is why we have poets who, with all their might, try to capture emotions in its purest form through poetry, but still couldn't quite make sense of an experience. 
This process makes writing more powerful than speaking because of internal communication and because of the time spent thinking about words closest to the thought. Composing words, as they are, is an attempt to physically manifest thoughts, but it is not the actual and pure thought you held deeply. Meanings are concealed in words and it is only through sensitivity that we can unlock its true intention and significance."

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