I was pointing out to someone the other day that I really like the word inspiration.
Obviously, inspiration means the sudden appearance of ideas and creative impulses. It’s something new and exciting that tickles the brain and makes it want to explore.
But obviously, it has another meaning. It just means breathing in.
You breathe in, and you inspire.
So ideas and thoughts come from the air around us. Right. Things just magically appear in our brain. That’s called thinking.
I actually have real trouble coming up with ideas. That’s why this blog exists, actually. I can’t think of things to write about, but I know I can write, and I know I’ll write better if I write more. So, with the help of some truly excellent people, set up a blog where I don’t have to come up with the spark of thought itself, I farm that out to questioners. They do all the hard work, and yet it only seems like a small deal because it’s only a sentence a day. Albeit one with an upswing in the tone at the end.
So in this particular case, thoughts come from other people, and I just try and run with them.
Thought doesn’t really make sense very often. I’m not sure I understand what I am thinking about half the time. It seems to be a jungle of song lyrics, lechery and pure randomness. I guess that means it all comes from external stuff. Our thoughts are responses to our environment, and our memory of the environment (and our memory of previous thought processes).
I don’t think thought can really exist in isolation from the world around it. Or at least it would become different. If Descartes thinks he thinks therefore he is, then I think differently (I think). If he just was, and nothing else existed, and it was just him, forever backwards and forwards through time, he wouldn’t be able to think. There would be nothing but the I he posits, and so it wouldn’t think (and so it wouldn’t be).
We respond to an immense complexity of stimulus around us, and our brains have become big enough to hold on to, sift, shift and reinvent the stuff that comes in. All of this is built off the back of things we hear, smell, feel, see or taste. We harvest so much information, and our society just loves to crunch that up into tightly wound ideas and concepts. We read books, that are the cumulative thought processes of other people, and so we multiply our thoughtspace even more. The density of information we experience directly and indirectly is huge.
So our brains are constantly firing bits and pieces together and finding new things to get excited about.
And we breathe them in, and they fill our lungs and hearts and minds.
And it’s fucking exhilarating, really. To be thinking and seeing and knowing and feeling all the time.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Illustration by Adam.
If you want to help Alex get his daily fix of thinking, send an e-mail to email@example.com and he’ll tell you how you can get involved in unstruck by asking questions or providing illustrations.