November 14, 2004
Here's a thought: I've been taking some yoga lately. (Though even more lately I've been inclined to blow it off.) One of the big themes in yoga and other forms of meditation is quieting the mind, stilling all the endless chatter and, at least for Zen Bhuddism, leaving nothing behind. It seems almost every Eastern philosophy and many of the Western ones see a calm mind as a benefit. For a long time I took it for granted that it was a good thing. But lately it's been occurring to me: I love the way my mind wanders. I really enjoy having it zigzag from one thought to another, how sometimes it'll land at a meme, I'll start thinking "Now how did I get to thinking about that?" and can enjoyably trace the steps back. I'm a tangental thinker, pretty good at making connections, twisting concepts slightly and then examining the results...why on earth (or in heaven) would I want to lose that? (Of course it is annoying when your brain fixates on a single meme over and over, whether it's a song or a bad joke or what have you.)
I suppose there might be some health-type benefits. A static mind is more relaxed, it's not going in any anxiety and neurosis-producing places (and I sure as heck have enough of those) and so I guess for blood pressure and what not it's a good thing. But for my money, nothing beats a good leisurely mental ramble, a thoughtful ponder. It's where some of society's big breakthroughs have come from, and I can't see why giving that up is such a big plus.
Actually, it's funny how much of this goes on in the hindmind without the conscious mind being aware of it...sometimes a vague emotion will be the main residue that my aware mind can follow to figure what the rest of my head is up to (To quote They Might Be Giants, "Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders what the part that isn't thinking isn't thinking of"...or what it is thinking of, in this case.) For instance, I'll be trying to remember something I was supposed to do...I'll feel a slight sense of...I dunno, nervousness, or pride, and that will be the hook to let me recall the core idea. "Why do I feel nervous? Oh right, there's that project that's almost due and still needs a lot of work." Does anyone else function this way? My brain is a brain of associations, I think a bit more so than with some people, which lets me more clever than average in some ways, but it has handicaps as well.