I’ve been thinking a lot lately. I observe myself staring into the void, or looking at people’s faces, movements, behaviors. I listen to their words, and I have a strange and distant feeling of “outerness". But what am I thinking about exactly?
I think about thought.
In particular, I ask myself the reason we do anything. Really, why do we do anything? Why do we wake up, grab a cup of coffee, have children, work, watch films, take hikes, why do we do anything at all, as opposed to nothing? I’ve been so caught up with the everyday TODOs that sometimes I get the feeling I'm moving in autopilot mode, but I don’t really question why I’m doing what I’m doing.
I believe this to be one of the fundamental questions of existence.
The first answer that came to mind is evolutionary, and it’s probably the most obvious one. Certain instincts, physical and behavioral traits were selected for by the process of evolution, and now we exhibit them, without necessarily having a reason, other than random chance, natural selection, and time.
But then I thought about it some more. I came to the conclusion that life is about patterns, and living beings value pattern recognition more than anything else.
Think about it. What makes a gazelle successful? It must spot lions and other threats effectively and efficiently, react in a split second without wasting energy. Based on the limited information it has available at any moment, it must act accordingly. Spotting the lion requires sophisticated vision, auditory, and potentially olfactory systems, all of which are intensely focused on recognizing patterns, and raising the alarm when a specific one is spotted. Activating the muscles and beginning the complex process of moving four coordinated limbs to propel the entire body forward while staying in balance is another case of pattern recognition and execution, coupled with a feedback loop of the body’s response, which leads to another state, which requires more pattern recognition and so forth. In algorithmic terms, it’s a recursive function (albeit simplified).
What makes a person successful?
How would you describe your experience of
It forces you to think, reflect, and internalize emotions and situations that would otherwise pass by you, forever out of reach, evanescent, fleeting entities that disappear the moment you experience them.
And so I ask that question.
I savor the moment when I look into the eyes of my interlocutor, shining as they move to the upper left, a sign that they are accessing that part of the creative brain that creates new, spectacular pathways into the synaptic connectome of their mind. And I await with a smile of satisfaction, knowing that they are creating new memories, that this process of voluntary reflection will help them solidify what they have experienced, thus appreciate it more deeply.
You can tell when they are making the effort, walking that extra step that is undoubtably more difficult, but that pays off exponentially more than simply glazing over and answering in autopilot. Then comes the sudden epiphany, thoughts have been processed, memories formed, and the smile becomes contagious, as they become finally aware of what they have been missing out until the moment you changed their mindset and forced them to look at themselves under a different perspective. Words have been attached to these new structures, and the act of voicing them will reinforce them, like building a solid foundation from which cathedral and castles are erected, in all their splendor and immensity.
Now comes my favorite part. Will they open the doors of their mental cathedral with you, thus sharing a commons space, and quite literally opening up to you, making themselves vulnerable? A quite challenging and scary thought, albeit no less rewarding than the previous one.
I thoroughly enjoy walking into new buildings – be them humble houses or majestic skyscrapers – all made of mind-stuff.
Excitement. Expectation. Vulnerability. But also exploration, openness, and connection.
And so I ask that question. And I eagerly wait to see the building that will be created before my eyes. Minds. Engines of creation.
In a way, isn't that what all great art does?