The subjective experience of thinking is, I’m guessing, different for everyone. How do you experience your own thoughts? Do you hear them or see them or feel them internally? Do our thoughts belong to us? Or do they have a life of their own?
Recently a fellow poet asked us questions of this sort and it got me, well, thinking. In my youth, I would have assumed that everyone has similar or overlapping subjective experiences. Now I know this is far from true.
So I’m wondering whether my own experience of thinking thoughts seems familiar or whether yours is different. Or indeed, whether you have ever considered (or care) what happens when you think.
I have thoughts
I have thoughts. Sixty-two hundred thoughts a day I “have” and so do you but “having” is a colonist’s illusion. How can I have thoughts when, every waking, dreaming, semi-conscious moment, thoughts have me. They are mice in the walls of an asbestos bach locusts with briefcases yesterday hatched sperm with psoriasis twinkling and stretching into my skull and all my extremities in a frantic mycelium of thoughts. Thoughts barge in, don’t knock at the door familiar as sisters, foreign as tetrapods hybrids of concrete and neurobiology a rash, a mash, a squash and a surge of white-water thoughts. Thoughts are a life force not of my making. tiny shapes in sepia surging under my skin they fornicate, prevaricate and procreate to music that clickety clicks. And sometimes thoughts in a disparate cluster splice together stand up and claim a momentary unity as a semi-formed soft-tech copyrighted notion complete with a noun and a verb— a thought temporarily new. Then the thought accrues a few conjunctions ready for contactless delivery to humans beyond the host, the person, me— this convenient, passive, unwitting receptacle and nursery of thoughts.
~Rachel McAlpine 2021~
Instant poems are hot off the press, rough and ready. I drop them in your lap because otherwise I would lose them and forget them. They’ll be severely edited if and when they are deemed worthy of my next book of poems. Meantime, I share them as a snapshot of a fleeting … thought.
The mechanics of thinking have long fascinated me. No matter how much science knows about the human brain (and that’s heaps now), we are still none the wiser about how this particular firing of neurons produces that particular thought. A particular mood, sure. A particular cognitive or sensory activity, sure, we can literally see it as it happens on a screen, thanks to various kinds of brain scans.
But why is the associated thought “must renew passport” rather than “must go to Tokelau“? Why does that flash happen when I think “what’s twelve times twelve?” rather than “Vogel bread on special“?
Our subjective experience of thinking is just as mysterious as the mechanics, or even more so. When you are thinking, what does this feel like to you? So if you, dear reader, would like to share your own thoughts about thinking, I’ll be fascinated. Thank you!