Friday, May 11, 2007

The place where we are alone with our thoughts.

I had this English teacher in high school. She was very nice, and I also enjoyed her classes, mainly because I already knew English and because she did the unthinkable, she said she would pass anyone who didn't want to learn English, provided they didn't come to disturb the class. She was a good teacher.

Anyway, one day she started talking about the place where she is alone with her thoughts and she can feel calm. I, being even less tactful than I am today, replied "Oh, the toilet!". She felt offended, because she was talking about church. But the scene stuck with me. And sometimes, on the toilet, alone with my thoughts (and my cat - so not quite alone) I recall her reaction and my own. You see, I understood why she felt offended, it was because I compared a place she considered clean with a place she considered dirty, but I also thought about why a woman that believes in a deity that made us all considers dirty something like we do by design and clean something we do inside a building with trainers and specific rituals that are not by design.

And that got me thinking (hmm, is my blog the best thing since toilets?) about the general situation where we put so much value on an external thing, while the value itself is internal. And I am not talking here only about religion (which by now you know I consider stupid) but also about everything else. Fashion, for example. It's the human equivalent of monkey see monkey do. It's putting value on a thing, person or trend simply because you feel like it. So it's something that has internal value, you gave it importance, but you attached it to something external.

Take another example: the things we get attached to, apparently by brain design. A child is being told that his favourite toy has been cloned into a perfect copy. And he is given "the clone", which is actually the same object. And the kid wants his toy back, not the copy. And the examples are infinite.

I think it's because in our brains, things are not things, but intersections of meanings. A red pill is the intersection between "pill" and "red", themselves intersections of other concepts. The church is nothing but a silly building, but it has meaning, for it gives peace and solitude for a while. So does a bathroom. So does this blog. But there comes a time when we realise that the intersections don't add up. It's called thinking, and it's the equivalent of Bonzai trimming of one's thoughts. We start cutting away the lines that don't make sense or that hurt us, while we strenghten the ones that give us sense and pleasure. We start with a thin scaffolding of chaotic wires and we bring it to a sturdy iron bar cage where our thoughts are stable and protected. That is the real place where we are alone with our thoughts, and we are alone because we don't allow anybody or anything in.

So trim carefully, some thin wires are good while some iron bars are bad.