Recently, I've been thinking a lot about thought. Actually, I do that most of the time. I feel like most of my thoughts are about my thoughts – like generalizations about them, or trying to change them in some way.

Like if I'm eating an apple, I'll spend less time thinking about how the apple tastes, and more time analyzing the thoughts that the apple gives rise to.

Level 1: Experiencing the taste and texture of an apple - at this point, there is no abstraction. No labels. What I mean is that there is no reflection here, it is just the pure experience of eating an apple with no judgement.

Qualia | Qualia, Perception, Redness

Level 2: Experiencing thoughts about the taste and texture of the apple. Judgements like "this apple is spoiled", "this apple is sweet!", "this apple is juicy!". These are immediate conceptualizations of the pure experience of eating the apple. Where do these thoughts come from? I don't feel in control of these immediate judgements. They seem automatic, a lot of the time. Why do they exist? What's the point of them? Maybe it is to make the experience of the apple permanent in some way, it gives you something to hold on to, since the pure experience of eating the apple is so fleeting. It also give us some dominion over our experiences, it creates separation – labels inherently lead to division. Naturally, we want to be able to comprehend our experiences, extend them, give them meaning, convey them to other people – perhaps this is why these immediate judgements arise. It seems evolutionary useful to be able to quickly understand and communicate your experiences. These thoughts aim to simulate pure experience. But while you can get close to simulating the experience of eating an apple, no amount of language can completely express a pure experience, there's always something left out of a description. It's like pretending that the poster for a movie is the movie. That's why I'm skeptical that truth or true self-understanding can be derived from thought. I feel as though understanding is separate from thought, maybe thought is the vehicle, but it is not the understanding itself. It can drive you to the right positions, but understanding is something beyond, it is a pure experience of its own. It's so interesting how we go from a sensation (pure experience) -> thoughts about the sensations -> understanding (pure experience).

Level 3: Judgements about the thoughts about the taste and texture of the apple. I judge my judgements. At this point, my awareness is no longer even on the apple. It's more about me. I'll question why I thought it was spoiled – was I being ungrateful? I'll think about what other people would think about my opinion. Instead of trying to comprehend the experience of the apple, I will try to comprehend myself – aiming to get to a point where I fully understand myself. Trying to get dominion over myself. It's endless however, because with each new thought and experience, another level of introspection is born. As Phillip K. Dick said: “The problem with introspection is that it has no end.” I notice that as I get further into introspection, I become quite anxious. I think it's frightening to realize that at the end of thought is complete emptiness – there is no easy-to-digest answer to anything.

I'm going to edit this more later, but this is a good starting place for my thoughts on thought.

Here's also a cool quote I found today:

"I stand in the mist and cry thinking of myself standing in the mist and crying and wondering if I will ever be able to use this experience in a book." - Erica Jong


Mind Straw #5: July Fourteen 2023