Thoughts about thoughts
28/04/2011 § 1 Comment
“This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.” Rabindranath Tagore
I am thinking about thought.
For the past three weeks I have had an idea buzzing around in my head for a new business venture. I didn’t particularly welcome it when it arrived but I couldn’t shake it off. It won’t let go. As I took my early morning walk each day through the vineyards in Germany, my mind kept being filled with ideas and images relating to this idea.
I am not ready to share the idea widely yet, it is too fragile, too newly born to be exposed to the world. Maybe next week. Instead I want to explore the subject of where thought comes from.
I once read a speech given by Sting, the musician and prolific song-writer. This is what he said about where his music comes from: “… if somebody asks me how I write songs, I have to say, “I don’t really know.” I don’t really know where they come from. A melody is always a gift from somewhere else. You just have to learn to be grateful and pray that you will be blessed again some other time.”
I also think of great composers such as Schubert or Mozart. They died relatively young (Mozart was 35, Schubert just 27) yet each produced a huge body of work of incredible variety, richness and depth. And what about Shakespeare or Pushkin, who produced work of such quality, and in such volume, that it had a marked and lasting effect on their native language.
How are we to make sense of this? Is it really that these individuals brought this work into being on their own? Or is it more helpful and more accurate to think of them as channels, connecting into some energy field in the ether and translating it into a form that other humans can relate to? They are perhaps a kind of human radio, tuning into channels most of us can’t access. But if this is so, what is the source of the information they are tuning into? Is this a sort of collective consciousness made up of all our minds?
What about us more humble mortals? Where do our ideas, our thoughts, come from? I just don’t know. Was it my idea to write this blog, or did the thought come from somewhere else and I merely attached myself to it? Am I writing this blog or is it a shared venture between me, you and the wider world?
I can’t answer these questions. And I can easily wander off into abstract mysticism, which I am rubbish at, if I spend too much looking at this stuff. Yet still I feel we have to keep asking the questions and extending our exploration – the way we think has a fundamental affect on the way we live our lives, individually and collectively.
One concept I have found really helpful is dialogue. The renowned physicist David Bohm (he worked with Einstein) wrote about it in a book “On Dialogue”. He said “Dialogue is really aimed at going into the whole thought process and changing the way the thought process occurs collectively. We haven’t really paid much attention to thought as a process. We have engaged in thoughts, but we have only paid attention to the content not the process.”
The word dialogue, he pointed out, comes from “Dia” meaning “through” and “Logos” which is “meaning.” So dialogue = meaning flowing through us. He suggested that there is a collective consciousness, a sort of shared mind, that we can tap into, to access higher wisdom and insight. Dialogue as he described it is a group process that allows us to access this place.
My understanding is that there are other ways to access this shared mind. For some of us, a good walk in nature will do it. Or meditation. Or lying in bed in a semi-awake, semi-asleep state. But dialogue is really interesting because it enables you to do it with others.
To explore this, I ran a weekend workshop on dialogue last year (on the basis that you teach what you want to learn). You can read a write-up here.
I should also add (he writes, pausing for a shameless commercial break) that I am running three short sessions on dialogue at the Hub in Islington on 18th May, 8th June and 29th June, each starting at 6 pm. For more details, click here.
I don’t have more to say about this. It feels pretty weird, writing about how I think. I struggle to separate what I am thinking from how I am thinking. Maybe to write about this stuff well, you have to be out of your mind. But then, Dasha thinks at the moment I am a bit out of my mind.
What do you think?