I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking lately.
Sometimes it has been of rather mundane things, you know, those constant little thoughts that populate one’s daily headspace. You know, those microscopic thoughts that barely register as thoughts at all, but occupy so much of one’s mental activity: the endless pondering of which socks to wear, the age-old debate of Lapsong versus Irish Breakfast, and, as always, the near perpetual struggle over whether one really need watch one more re-run episode of Benson.
But, more recently, I have been occupying myself with those self-perpetuating processes of thinking about thinking, or, perhaps more accurately, thinking about what I probably ought to be thinking about, i.e. those large, nagging questions that surround one’s existence and one’s general interaction with the world. Though perhaps that may be an overstatement; I am not quite sure if I am getting around to those truly monumental metaphysical inquiries – the “What is the point of life?” questions. I am more in mid-grade existential mode – let’s call it Kafka instead of Sartre – with those persistent and, at times, pernicious questions along the lines of “Who am I?” and/or “What do I do now?’
Though, to be perfectly honest, I fear I may all too often come up just short of even these moderately existential considerations. As I said, I seem to be thinking about thinking about these things, but seem to constantly pull up just short of anything one could call genuinely productive thought; it is not so much an interuptus, but more of a self-reflective [or perhaps reflexive] performance anxiety.
When I was younger [“so much younger than today”] this thinking about thinking seemed so much easier. The tried and true “frame a question and then set about thinking about it” method felt rather comfortable and did its job quite well. These days the very framing of a question presents heretofore inconceivably problematic issues. The contingencies, considerations, and complications mount in gathering piles filling every corner of my thought-space with ever-increasing mounds of ifs, buts, and maybes.
And even when one [the rhetorical abstraction shifting between I and one has been noted and ignored; let’s all assume that I am talking of general thoughts about thinking and that I, your dear, beloved author has never had a doubt in his life.] gets pasts out of the rubbish heaps of conditionals in the corners, the central spaces of the questions themselves presents a far more complicated topography [or perhaps topology] than I – I mean one – was usually accustomed to, not a claustrophobic immobility of thought, a closing down of mental directions, but an endless vista of imaginative potential, a conceptual agoraphobia if you will.
Thus one ends up nervously shuttling between those corners with the still burgeoning piles of conditional clauses and vast badlands surrounding the central themes and one’s best intentions of getting down to the task at hand of thinking.
And then there are the distractions. Don’t get me started about the distractions. I am not kidding, don’t, because I’ll never get back on track if you do. Damn it, now it’s too late now, so I might as well write about the distractions since the thought of them has already become yet another distraction.
So, as I was saying, the distractions. They are not so bad when they merely pull one away from that at best semi-productive cogitation, but their truly insidious process is to integrate themselves into what one thought was a possibly meaningful line of thought, an overheard word or an image flashed upon a nearby screen that carefully ingratiates itself only to wend its way toward a more central position, all the time shoving aside all matters of significance until one finds oneself squarely in the middle of those thoughts about the relative merits of argyle versus striped socks, engrossed in the paper-thin plot the day’s eighth episode of Benson on TVLand, waiting for the kettle to boil once again, packet of tea ready at hand.
Thus, as I said at the beginning, I have been thinking a lot. I could probably use a break, but that is easier said than done once one gets started. If anyone wants to take over for me for a while, that would probably be greatly appreciated, because somebody has to do it, and, for the time being, I seem to be the only one in my head willing to take on this particular task.
So, alas, I should probably get back to it. I think I see a nasty cluster of what-ifs gathering around the corner that really ought to be seen to before they get out of control and decide to stampede.