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Thoughts and Ripples

Jul 30, 2018

When you throw a few pebbles in a lake, you know that a pattern of ripples will appear. But you don't know what the pattern will look like until it emerges, especially if there's a strong water current or some wind blowing. This is similar to what happens when you think about an idea. The pebbles are the ideas you start with -- maybe something someone said to you, something you read or heard on TV, maybe something that just suddenly came to your mind. What's interesting to me is the fact that you don't know what you're going to think until you've thought it; you don't know what the rippled pattern will look like until it's formed.

In a sense, we're the authors of our thoughts. But we're also the observers of our thoughts. It's not easy to notice this. Pause for a moment before your next thought and notice how in the dark you are about the nature of the next thought that will come to your mind. Enjoy the rippled patterns of ideas that emerge. You created them, kind of.

8 comments:

  1. Jon, is there any sense at all in which we have free will?

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  2. Deep question, Paul. By free will, we sometimes mean that we did X, but we could have done something else if we'd chosen to. The fact that we don't know what we're going to think before we think it, says to me that, at least for thoughts, I couldn't have 'thought' something other than what came to my mind.

    To me, this doesn't mean we have no control at all. For instance, after something comes to my mind, I may decide that this isn't a fruitful line of thought, and that may affect the direction of the thoughts that come to me next. Or I may become interested in some part of what came to my mind, and choose to follow through on that.

    Whether that adds up to 'free will' in a logical/philosophical sense is another question. But some aspects of our thought processes seem to afford us more control than others.

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  3. Of course, there's an additional level of control when it comes to how we 'act' in response to our thoughts. (But again, whether this adds up to 'free will' in a logical/philosophical sense is another question.)

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    1. I think the issue is an especially tough one because there are so many ways to look at it. Overall, I'm tending more towards a very limited free will, if any at all.

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  4. Anna Mullins7/31/2018

    I've always felt we had "free will" when faced with whether we should do right or wrong. I've never thought I could completely control what my multi track mind wanted to think about, especially when I try to turn it off to go to sleep or when something is bothering me. I've tried meditation and sometimes it works and I can make it go blank, but it never lasts for long. If I see or hear something my mind "thinks" I need to analyze...I have little control other than to try and work it out through thought. :)

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    1. "I've tried meditation ... and I can make [the mind] go blank, but it never lasts for long. If I see or hear something my mind "thinks" I need to analyze.."
      ... Yes, the thought-generator isn't easily turned off, and doesn't stay off for very long!

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  5. Love this piece Jon! Toss and ripple. (Pun..kind of referring to the name of my blog.) Thoughts emerging. Us observing. Lots of fun to think about and observe. Well...sometimes the observing can be disturbing. But, if I simply observe...it can be quite enlightening.

    Now to your next post about more rippling...

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    1. Something I'm learning from mindfulness meditation is that it's possible to observe thoughts without necessarily sticking with them to the point of following them off the cliff!
      :)

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