Short note on thinking

I am washing dishes and contemplating the possibility of coffee. Instead of simply making the coffee, think about it for a bit and the flavor of it is added. Like holding off from that first kiss, waiting a bit to let the daydreams play for a while… and then that kiss is really something indeed.

I’ve been thinking a little on the nature of thinking. That last sentence is itself problematic on a deeply philosophical level. Yet I’ll brush it aside to get to the point. Something struck me once a couple of years ago while reading the biography of Thomas Jefferson. The author claimed that Jefferson wasn’t really all that original in his writing of the Declaration of Independence, but that he was more of a harmonizer. The charges have been levelled against him that he plaigarised the now famous declaration. But the point that really stuck to me was that of Jefferson primarily being a “harmonizer” of thoughts. I remember this because this resounded quite deeply within me. It was as though the author were writing about me. I did not, nor now, view myself as particularly original in thought at all, but that I seek to harmonize the ideas within me. And like the man whom I call a guiding influence, dissonance of thought is not appreciated within my brain. Yet this is hardly a personal trait as social psychology studies have shown that cognitive dissonance is a powerful force in behavior.

But this isn’t some long winded self description. Instead I hope to speak more generally on thought, though it must be brief (more later). The exposure to ideas and thoughts lends themselves places (to the receptive mind) within the brain. These places are categorized and connected in different fashion, the illustration following whichever theory you prefer. When one is given a thought or a puzzle to solve, one can either come up with something completely new (rather unlikely in the strictest sense) or one can adapt peripheral thoughts to the task. The scale of creativity then is the amount of disparity between the original thought and the peripheral thoughts. An example would be like the episode of Ground Force this morning where the team redid a garden at a fire station. Had it been me I might have had some fire designs painted on the wall, perhaps some colors and such… but the team had old wooden ladders as the roof lattice (painted of course) an old fire hose and nozzle as part of the water feature, old extinquishers with the tops cut off and turned into planters, and old alarm with a dedication on it mounted on the wall, and other nice touches. I see quite clearly that the people are more creative in that aspect than I would have been. Yet the neat thing about creativity the way I see it is, whether or not a portion of it is inherent within one’s genetic makeup, is that it can be increased. And the manner in which one increases creativity is exposure to wider and oftentimes outlandish ideas.

Nietszche said that philosophy had been largely autobiographical. True. But I fail to see how it can be otherwise, which goes back to that first sentence that I spoke of, the thinking about thinking bit.

But I must go now for I was going to include a reference to some studies on cognitive dissonance and in pulling out my social psychology texts I found the source of the smell I could not track down (look under the bed, all over the floor.. everywhere!). It seems that my little boy cat has “marked” my psychology text books. All of them. Right now I am in an opportunity to exercise calm and restraint… so I’ve grounded him outside while I clean up the bookshelf. No doubt later on tonight he’ll be fat and lazy in my lap, happlily getting a good petting. But for now I’ve got an unpleasant job to do.


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