Sunday, July 11, 2010

In Defense of Thinking A Lot, Or, How I Might Control My Mind

7/11/10 - Final Note and Introduction

This might just be my realest flow ever. When I say fo' life, ya'll say fo' eva.

Honestly, for me, this is one of the most interesting things I have written in a while. It felt very personal throughout. I feel like this is autobiographical in many ways. I am essentially trying to explicate my own thought processes, my own experiences with emotions and thoughts. All of this writing is grounded in my reading of many authors. Most of my other posts refer explicitly to authors and their work. But in this one I went purely on my own. No quotations really, no formal discussions of authors. This is just me. Needless to say, however, all my favorite authors permeate this writing in many ways. But anyways, here is a table of contents:

1. The Quantity of Thought
2. The Quality of Thought
2a. The Experience of Thought
2b. The Content of Thought
2c. The Effects of Thought
3. The Tendency to Intuitively Simulate Other Minds, Or, On Being Naturally Empathic
4. Being Okay With The Egocentric Nature of Social Thinking
5. Forgiving Everyone for Everything: Creative Empathy and Finding Peace With Pain
6. Thoughts, Emotions, and Control: This Doesn't Work How I Was Told!
7. Control, Relabeling, and Mindfulness: Controlling Thoughts and Emotions as Actively Creating and Transforming the Self
8. New Concepts as New Brains: Neuroplasticity and Control as Transformation
9. The Quest for Endless Novelty: Controlling the Self as Mindful and Perpetual Transformation

Sporadic note taking from between 6/8/10 and 6/30 or so.

Lol me and someone totes had this talk at work where we dabbled into the frustrations of being a sensitive person. She has often been told of the benefits but rarely experiences them for herself. How to explain this? How does embracing pain become embracing sensitivity etc?

So you are telling me I am not in 'control' like I was led to believe? are you serious? But wait, you are telling me that if I can recognize that and reconceptualize control and freedom accordingly, I can begin to exert meaningful effort over my mind and my life? Well, then. Where do we go from here? You tell me.

Frightened Rabbit: If you don't stare at the dark if you never feel bleak life starts to lose its taste.

We need an education system that makes people more dissatisfied. we need an education system that transforms people and makes them think differently and makes them pay attention. if paying attention makes people more dissatisfied then good, we need more social rights battles. wars make people pay attention to inequality, we don't need more war with guns, we need more war with thoughts.

7/8/10 - Begin real writing

The Quantity of Thought
So, this essay is based on the questions, do I think too much? Do you think too much? Do we feel or think too much sometimes? Why is it bad to think too much? How do you quantify thought in any case?

I was sometimes told that I thought too much. Sure, sometimes it may lead to a little anxiety, a little nervousness, or maybe just a feeling of being overwhelmed. But still, I don't really buy this statement. I don't think I think too much. Sometimes, however, I do need to rain my thoughts in, get a grip on them, prevent them from running amok in my mind. Cause that can happen. Thought can dominate me, overcome me, wreck me. But for the most part I think I keep it under check, and that I like thinking a lot. I'll talk about quantity of thought more in this writing.

But I think that more important than the quantity of thought is the quality of thought. What is it like? How do you experience it? rapidly? imaginatively? egocentrically? What are your thoughts usually about? Where does your mind drift naturally? Does it stay isolated or does it uncontrollably think of others? How do your thoughts effect you? How does it make you feel? Good? Bad? These are the more important questions I think. So I'll be exploring them.

The Quality of Thought
So under this heading I am going to explore three different aspects of the quality of thought. The first is the experience of thought, what it is like for us. Second is the content of thought, its subject matter, etc.. Third will be the effects of thought, how it makes us feel about ourselves and others.

The Experience of Thought
So, the experience of thought. In this section I want to explore how it is that, for me, thought is simply something I experience, not something I create or do. My thoughts rush at me rapidly and unexpectedly. I could be doing one thing thinking one thing and suddenly be locked into doing another thing. My thought is totally random sometimes, I make connections without an awareness of how, I have new ideas without any sense of a source. My imagination takes me in all kinds of different directions: to other times and places, to other people's minds, to all sorts of memories, to all kinds of fanciful daydreams.

In this section I am simply claiming that thought is not something we actively create or do, but something that is experienced. It just happens to me.

When someone tells you that you think too much, therefore, they are not recognizing that thought is often not actively created but passively received and experienced.

I do believe, however, that thought can be active. That we can do it, make it happen. But I think that comes most easily after we recognize that thought often happens in ways that we don't control. Before we can change our thoughts we need to analyze our thoughts. Since thought exists before we create it we must treat it as an already formed object. Just like we have to get to know the consistency of a piece of clay before we turn it into a piece of pottery, we have to get to know our thoughts before we can modify them.

So, in these next two sub-sections I am elaborating on ways that thought happens without our control. In essence I feel like this section on the quality of thought is meant to provide a set of concepts that can help me analyze my (unconscious) thought. Once I have properly analyzed my unconscious thinking I can begin to exert choice and control over my thought. These are some of the analytical tools that can eventually lead to changing the brain.

The Content of Thought
I feel like I have done a decent job claiming that thought often happens on an unconscious level. But now I want to ask the question, what are the contents, the subjects, the themes that my mind (your mind) typically revolves around? What kinds of things do you pay attention to automatically? Is it emotions? Is it something else?

For me, the most important thing to note is that my thoughts most frequently drift around other people's minds, emotions, and thoughts. If my mind isn't occupied with itself, it is most often occupied by thinking about other people's thoughts. If there is another mind near me I find it almost impossible to not to speculate about what that mind is thinking. What it is like.

An example that has happened to me hundreds of time: Say I'm having a conversation with someone in a part of a store, then unexpectedly someone walks around the corner and can now hear my conversation. In almost every instance I find that the way I speak changes because that new person has entered the space. My mind is immediately concerned with whether they can hear what I am saying, and what they might think about it. My mind is so compelled to think about other minds that I find my speaking changes simply with the presence of a new mind.

I find this feeling to be more pronounced if it is a girl I think is cute or something like that. But naturally, I would be more interested in the mind of a cute girl than of an old guy. When an old guy is around, however, it still modifies my conversation, I can think of instances. But I feel even more pulled out of my own mind when a cute girl walks by. Especially if I am having a philosophical or abstract conversation that might seem strange silly to someone else.

The funny thing about this is that I use phrases like 'pulled out of my own mind', and stuff like that. I literally feel like my mind moves when other people enter the space. My mind really feels like it is being pulled out of its isolation and into a new space: i.e. I experience this as a feeling of moving beyond my own mind and to another person's mind. I've always found that this happens to me, and I've often found it odd or hard to explain. But in the next section I think I'm going to explain it, or I can stab at an answer.

But in this section the main thing that I want to say is that the contents of my thought typically revolve around the thoughts and emotions of other people. My mind naturally thinks about other minds, and spends a fair amount of time doing it. It just seems to happen that way, and I think it is good. Every mind has its idiosyncrasies, so figure out what yours are I guess.

The Effects of Thought
Now I want to talk about the way that thought effects the way I feel and think about myself, others, and the world. So I have already established that my thought basically just happens to me, I simply experience it, and that it typically revolves around other people's thoughts and emotions. Experiencing thought like this has typically effected me the most when I am around new people or strangers. Mainly because these unfamiliar people give my mind a chance to run wild.
But I want to stress that the most important thing about thought is whether it has a positive or negative effect on you.

When I'm standing in line somewhere, for example, and I hear someone giggle behind me, I would often assume they were laughing at me for some reason. Does my hair look silly? Is my fly down? Self-consciousness would overcome me at the littlest sign of someone making fun of me. In reality, though, those people probably were thinking about something totally different. I just tend to think that people are thinking about me. Which often is not the case.

But more importantly is that I would feel uncomfortable around new people, just because I didn't have very much evidence for their thoughts, and my mind would naturally be self-conscious and think they were making fun of me. But I think I have gotten a bit better at not thinking that way. Because sometimes you have to do a little work to modify the way you think.

This is the most important thing about the effects of thought: it matters most whether your thoughts make you feel good or make you feel bad. It doesn't even matter as much if your thoughts are right or wrong. But if it makes you feel bad then you should think about trying to exert a little change over your thoughts. Use your imagination to manipulate the way you see things in certain moments. Those people laughing, for example, imagine that they are just talking about a friend and telling a joke, because in reality it probably has nothing to do with you. Or when someone cuts you off in traffic, imagine that they are having a heart attack, or a really bad week so you can forgive them. Maybe they are just dumb and spaced out and are a bad driver, but either way I don't know that, so what matters most is how I imagine other people's thoughts to be, and how that makes me feel. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt simply because it makes me feel better.

So in this section I have argued three interrelated things about that: that thought is often something that is not controlled but rather experienced (it just happens), that the content of my thought is usually other people's minds, and that thinking of the way other people think has an effect on the way I feel and think.

The Tendency to Intuitively Simulate Other Minds, Or, On Being Naturally Empathic
Now I want to talk more directly about my natural concern with other minds. In particular, I want to talk about how I think that my thoughts on other minds usually resemble a simulation of sorts. I think most of my thoughts are a lot like empathy. I usually imagine what someone is thinking or feeling and I think I feel or think it for myself. This is what I mean with the title of this subsection: that my mind tends to intuitively simulate other minds, I naturally empathize with other people.

Like I said above, when I'm having a conversation and then someone new walks into the room my mind totally gets pulled out of my present situation (which only involves two minds), and I can't help but think about that new mind. My mind is naturally, intuitively, pulled into that space of thinking about other minds. I think the word simulation helps me think about what it is like to think about another mind, and especially in these instances. By simulation I mean that whenever I think a certain person thinks something, it is me that is actually creating and projecting those thoughts onto them. I have no direct evidence of thought, ever. I can only know my own thoughts for sure. Knowledge of someone elses thoughts is always indirect, and I, therefore, am the one responsible for creating the thoughts that I attribute to other people. I have to simulate their thoughts and project them. It is me, my mind, that unconsciously (or consciously) runs these simulations that let me ascribe mental states to others.

Anyways, specifying that this is a process of simulation, in which I am responsible for bringing other people's thoughts to life, leads me to the necessity of self-centeredness/egocentrism (without the negative connotations). I think that by recognizing the egocentric nature of our thoughts we can actually begin to act more compassionately/understandingly to other perspectives.

Being Okay With The Egocentric Nature of Social Thinking
So, as I said above, when we think about another person's thoughts we can't access them directly. Therefore, it is our thoughts that help us understand other people's thoughts, or let us guess about other people's thoughts. We are always using our own thoughts to project thoughts onto other people (by first simulating their thoughts then projecting). So I see extreme subjectivity as a matter of fact, and something that naturally makes us have to think subjectively. We have to think as if though we are only dealing with our own thoughts. Cause it seems like that is what we are dealing with. Thought has to be egocentric by its very nature.

But that doesn't mean we will act selfishly, or without consideration of other people's feelings. In fact, I think recognizing the egocentric nature of social thought can make us more compassionate and empathic towards others. The key thing is that by recognizing that you only have access to your own thoughts, you can start consciously working within that world of your own subjectivity. You can think about the way you think and start to craft the way you think. You can start manipulating and experimenting with your understandings of other people. Although the mind automatically produces these simulations of other people's minds, you can also exhibit a little bit of control over them. So next time you think, 'oh those people are laughing they must be laughing at me', or 'oh that guy cut me off he must be stupid', try to think again and consider some alternative possibilities. Get creative with your own social imagination. Try to think, 'oh those people could be laughing about a mutual friend who did something wacky', ' or 'maybe they are having a rough day.' Because your understanding of these other people's minds are happening within your own mind you can exert some creativity on how you think about people.

Get creative with your own thought. Everyday thought can be creative. You have to experience the world egocentrically, you can only see from your perspective. But once you are okay with the egocentric nature of thought you can craft a conscientious egocentric perspective. Just because your thought is egocentric doesn't mean it isn't sensitive or empathic, it just means you work from your own views. Most importantly, hopefully this conscientious egocentrism can allow you to exercise a little control over how you think about other people. Because other people are (in many ways) just in your head, you can get creative with how you think about them.

On 6/22 I published an essay called 'The Inhibition of the Self as the Enrichment of the Self'. I expressed very related ideas in that post. I was explaining how it is that you can only see from your perspective, you have no choice but to simulate other people's thoughts for yourself. But if we want to be aware, conscientious, we can inhibit our own perspective and try to see as other people do. The more we inhibit our own views the more we may find ourselves understanding why people did what they did. We might find it easier to forgive people if we are a little bit more creative or imaginative with our explanations of people's actions. In other words, this conscientious egocentrism requires and inhibition of the self. You can't let your own perspective run away with you. In order to best utilize the necessary egocentrism of thought we have to inhibit ourselves some.

It is really easy to not choose how you think, but I'm saying it is possible, in some ways, to choose what you think about and how you think about it. And I really want to stress the importance of creativity in this. You can be creative everyday with your thoughts and with your actions. Life can become an art form, decision can become an art form, compassion can become an art form. Get creative with your imagination, with your thoughts, and with your life.

Forgiving Everyone for Everything: Creative Empathy and Finding Peace With Pain
Now I just want to advocate one stance I have held in jest/seriousness for quite a while now. That stance is communicated in the phrase (conceptually) forgive everyone for everything. As I said above, other people's thoughts exist primarily as simulations within my mind. How I am effected by those thoughts, therefore, is the most important thing.

So how do I deal with all the bad people in the world? All the people who seem rude or mean or evil? I have to simulate those people's minds? Do I chock their lameness up to choice? Ignorance? Stupidity? Laziness? Irrationality? There are so many distasteful people in the world, and it frustrates me to think about them, so what to do? Well, because thinking about these people in this way only hurts me, I need to do something about it. I need to find a way to think about these people that doesn't hurt me.

So how to do it? Well, my answer is that we need to find ways to imagine that these people can be forgiven for acting the way they do. We need to be creative and imagine that their are circumstances that somehow make that person's actions okay. When we think of drug dealers, murderers, etc., the worst people, we have to have an imagination that is powerful enough to say: 'don't you think those people probably came from incredible poverty in which their options were very limited? maybe they had no other way out, no choice.' This is hard to do. Hard to think about it.

But it feels so bad to blame these people for their crimes and to explain it with words like laziness, stupidity, ignorance, mental disease, etc.. It feels better for me to try and find a way to forgive these people. Unfortunately, it means giving a lot of credence to determinism. I, however, do believe that social and historical determinism are very real and powerful things in the world. History and society do not control us absolutely, but they undoubtedly set the limits on possible thought and action. Society only gives me certain ways of living, certain words to help me think, certain jobs and school to help me work and live. Society sets the boundaries of my life. I, therefore, am interested in transgressing those boundaries of thought. Those conceptual and intellectual boundaries.

In particular, I think that we have an overreliance on the notion of free will, control, and responsibility. We don't take social and historical determinism into account. I find it hard to believe when people tell me that people living in extreme conditions have the choice to do whatever they want. When people haven't even been exposed to information about education, or about work, how can you escape poverty and ignorance. If your experience has denied you that knowledge, is it still your fault that you live that way? Do the people of North Korea or Iran have a choice about living the way that they do? Seems like the North Korean people are pretty fucking determined in the way they think. Is it possible for them not to hate the Americans?

What I'm saying is that there must be reasons that these people do these terrible things. That we cannot simply explain it away through laziness, ignorance, and irrationality. That people are being compelled to behave in these ways based on deterministic factors beyond their awareness. That, for my sake, I try to find ways to conceptually forgive these people. Sure they have to be punished, but I want to imagine ways in which these people are not just evil or stupid, but have legitimate views and did legitimate things based on extreme circumstances. We too readily explain crime with the ideas or irrationality and stupidity, I want to find ways to forgive these people, imagine their actions and thoughts legitimate.

I think that the 'American Dream' as a vague ideas has a lot to do with this. I associate America with 'choice', 'freedom', 'liberty', 'responsibility', 'ownership'. All those ideas contribute to this condemnation that we too readily throw at criminals. I have had a problem with the American Dream for a while, but I want to make it official: I am declaring (intellectual) war against the American Dream.

Forgive everyone for everything as best you can, it will make you feel better about the world to imagine that these people are being legitimate. It will take some imagination, some creativity, but I think it worthwhile.

Lastly, I want to say that I like this idea of forgiving everyone for everything because I want to forgive myself. I know I have done things that were bad, that hurt other people, that I felt bad about at the time. But I want to find ways to forgive myself. Things are hard. It isn't just like I was being stupid, or being crazy, or being irrational. Life is difficult and complex, and lots of things compelled me to behave the way I did. Not that it was okay in my mind, and not that I want to act that way, but it is true that my behavior was in some sense legitimate. There were reasons that I did those things that I now regret. It wasn't for nothing. It was for complex things that I couldn't appreciate at the time. I did the best I could.

Everyone is just doing the best they can. Try to know that, imagine it, and feel it. Try to forgive everyone for everything.

Thoughts, Emotions, and Control: This Doesn't Work How I Was Told!
Now I just want to summarize quickly: I've claimed that my thoughts are very immediate, and they are often about other people's minds. Further, that these thoughts about other people are really simulations in which I imagine people's thoughts and then project those thoughts on to them. The point being that it is I that am really responsible for what I think of as 'other people's thoughts.' Since I am the one creating other people's thoughts, I believe that I can exert creative influence on myself, in which I explore different ways of explaining people's behavior. I deliberately craft the way that I think by regarding my first thoughts and reactions as mere possibilities among many. By recognizing this essentially egocentric nature of thought I can begin to exert creative influence on my own thoughts. And lastly, that I find it useful/satisfying to try and 'forgive everyone for everything'.

Now that I have made these claims about the nature of thinking about other people, and have established that I want to begin to control my thoughts, I want to explain more precisely how mental control may work.

First, I just want to say that when I was growing up self-control never worked in the way I felt like it should. The way everyone talked about self-control it seemed like it was something I should just do automatically, like I was some deliberate rational being that could just make myself do things. I felt like people thought you could just make yourself do whatever you want. And in some ways, you can maybe, you can force yourself to do things. But at the same time I always felt so bound by my thoughts and emotions. I felt like they overwhelmed me and prevented me from having any coherent sense of how my mind worked or how I was to control these things. Sometimes you just cry and it is hard to stop. When I was young this was definitely a thing for me. And I never understood how I was supposed to control myself.

But I will say that controlling your thoughts and feelings is not as simple as it sometimes sounds. You can't just shift gears. You can't just flip a switch. The mind is not like a machine and it cannot be controlled like that. Even using mechanical metaphors to conceptualize thought doesn't feel so good. So I am going to throw out some different metaphors that sometimes help me conceptualize control.

Sometimes I think about the mind and emotions as a child of sorts. It is a part of you that can't be appealed to with reason. You have to coddle your mind, coax it, plead with it, question it, and above all be patient with it. Waiting is without a doubt one of the most important things, and sometimes I forget that. But waiting and watching yourself can be so helpful.

I also sometimes think about the mind in terms of clay and pottery. The mind is something that we have to get very familiar with before we can start exercising lots of control over it. Above I compared it to getting to know the consistency of a piece of clay before you turn it into pottery. So, don't treat your mind like a machine, like something objective or rational that can be manipulated directly. Instead, treat it like something fragile, delicate, something that needs soothing and caring. Cause you just need to be sensitive and patient towards yourself. And once you become okay with being certain ways, or understanding why you are certain ways, it might be easier to think in new ways.

I presented these alternative metaphors because I think that the way we think about our thinking is probably the most important thing in all of this. The terms that you use to think of yourself are so important, and can be so helpful, or equally harmful. If you think of your mind in terms of rationality, sanity, you can become trapped by those ideas, they can make you feel irrational or insane. But guess what, you don't have to be rational, and I don't think most people are (for the most part). We have to conceptualize emotions and thoughts and controlling them in different ways. In other words, we can only control our thoughts and emotions if we can begin to think of them in new and creative ways that help us forgive ourselves and others, for everything.

We need to relabel the world and ourselves so that we can see it in a new light. This leads me to my next section where I will elaborate on how control can be attained through relabeling, and how this relates to mindfulness and personal creativity.

Control, Relabeling, and Mindfulness: Controlling Thoughts and Emotions as Actively Creating and Transforming the Self
So, the questions for this section are: how exactly does relabeling familiar things (finding new terms for old things, like emotions), how does this bring about control? How does reconceptualizing things give you a different way of acting or choosing?

Well let me just say first and foremost that relabeling is so important because we already have so many labels for everything! Society has given us so many words and so many of them are loaded with so many connotations that I feel repelled by them. I don't want to use these words that society has given me because they are. Everybody is either this or that, some race and nationality or some gender, some sexual orientation or some social class. Too many labels! Too many connotations. They are too historically dense. If we can't find new terms to think in we won't be able to escape these conceptual limitations that come along with society and history.

So, ultimately, new words = new ways of thinking about things. And I think that the mind is especially important to adopt new terms for. Because the basic, normative, popular ways of speaking about the mind make almost no sense. I think people usually speak in terms of rationality, sanity, computing, metaphors and references to computers and machines. I don't feel rational, sane, or like a computer or a machine. I feel quite different from those things.

This is another possibility I like: no words for anything at all. How blankly could you experience the world? How much could you bypass words and experience life as raw vision, touch, smell, etc. Words cook life. They distort it. They make it look like different things. Life is raw, words cook life. How raw can we get it? How much can we bypass words? This will be explored more in the last section.

But I will still propose a set of terms that I think are better for conceptualizing the mind than the ones I just ran through. I explained most of them above. But I think the world should be thought of in terms of the following: simulation, experience, emotion, attention (mindfulness), creativity, imagination, and transformation. Rather than regard ourselves as logical machines, recognize we are emotional beings that understand others by empathizing, by simulating their thoughts and feelings, their experiences. Instead of thinking in terms of deliberately controlled and logical thought we should think in terms of attention, creativity, and imagination. We have to be creative in order to think differently and to control ourselves. Finally, rather than rational self-control we should think in terms of transformation and construction of the self. We can't control ourselves unless we are actively creating ourselves. Life is not static, it isn't like we just are some way, we can change, we can transform, and we can make it happen. Control is about actively transforming yourself. I think this is an agentic view, I think this is this is free will. But I think it is a free will that is achieved by recognizing that society has given you a limited set of concepts, and that adopting new concepts can give you a new perspective that can allow you to live everyday more creatively. New terms can give us the option of transforming ourselves.

Furthermore, I want to say that all this business of relabeling and attention connects very easily to Buddhist mindfulness. To be mindful is to adopt a semi-objective stance towards your thoughts and feelings, to regard them as only as a passing experience. Mindfulness is about paying attention. Relabeling, therefore, enables a sort of mindfulness. The goal is to pay attention to the world. But it is hard, that is why relabeling helps. It gives us new ways of paying attention to old things.

Now I want to elaborate on the transformative element of my version of free will. First I want to briefly discuss the neuroscience that confirms these ideas about control, relabeling, and transformation. Then I want to wrap up on mindfulness as the key factor in transforming ourselves, and thus controlling ourselves.

New Concepts as New Brains: Neuroplasticity and Control as Transformation
This is gonna be a brief section. All I want to say is that I have read two books that substantially confirm that the brain can be changed by deliberate thinking. And more importantly, that relabeling familiar things, finding novelty among monotony, is essential to personal change. You have to learn to pay attention to the world in new ways. This relationship between personal change, relabeling, and novelty can be explained by neuroplasticity. Generally, right here I just want to argue that personal change has correlates in the brain. You are not hardwired to be a certain way, you can change, and neuroscientists think so too.

When you adopt new words for things, relabel them, it often makes things appear differently to you. It makes them novel for you. This novelty makes you pay more attention to them. Interestingly, the brain undergoes certain chemical processes when we experience novel things that we pay close attention to. Two chemicals, brain derived neurotrophic factor (bdnf) and dopamine are released when we pay close attention. The release of these chemicals opens our brain up to plastic change. In short, we are more likely to make new neural connections (ie new thoughts) when we are paying attention, and these chemicals are in our brain. Paying attention actually forces the brain to modify itself by releasing these chemicals. Paying attention helps us change our brains. Remember, this is essentially mindfulness. So mindfulness helps us change our brains.

But how do we pay attention to things when life in America is so routine and monotonous? Well, one thing we can do is relabel things. Adopt new terms to think about old things. Either way, new words prompt novelty, and therefore prompts your brain for neuroplastic change. The conclusion is undeniable and very straight forward: relabeling familiar things enables a mindfulness that can cause physical changes in the brain. By relabeling we can pay attention to things in new ways and begin actively transforming ourselves, and our brains.

The Quest for Endless Novelty: Controlling the Self as Mindful and Perpetual Transformation
So mindfulness is the key thing in all of this. We can't transform ourselves, or our thoughts and emotions unless we are paying attention to our thoughts and emotions. You have to be there with them, you need to acknowledge them, pay attention to them!

But it is so hard to pay attention into our incredibly routinized world. Everything is so laid out for me! All these jobs and roads and ideas! Too much planning, too much repetition, too much monotony! How do I find novelty among this!?!

Well, it turns that everyday is dynamic, and every personality I come across is dynamic.

I believe that life is incredibly dynamic. I think everyday is different. I think my thoughts and emotions are different everyday. I think I am constantly transforming. But the calendar, the clocks, the words, the social categories, they make it easy to miss the dynamism of life. They make it easy to think that we live the same week every week. That we have Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Repeat.

It makes it feel like we have January February March April May June July August September October November December Repeat January February March April May June July August September October November December Repeat January February March April May June July August September October November December Repeat January February March April May June July August September October November December Repeat January February March April May June July August September October November December Repeat.

You get the point. Western, modern life, has a lot of structure that comes along with capitalism, cocks, calendars, and wide spread knowledge.

But I think if we can learn to see that those things are not really real real, that they are socially and historically constructed, the world could appear incredibly novel to us. Like seriously, wtf is up with trees? Why are they so incredible? What was it like for people who didn't know how trees grew? They just saw them and experienced them and maybe got food from them?

Why does this world look so familiar to me? Why couldn't it be new?

My cousin likes this Cormac McCarthy quotation that I think demonstrates the same idea. He wrote, "The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of it's strangeness it would appear to you for what it is." We experience the same thing most days and it seems familiar, seems monotonous. But it isn't. Anything can be thought, anything is possible. Maybe not anything. But it is a powerful quotation to me.

Well, like I said, I believe that it is new all the time. Everyday is dynamic. Every act and decision can be creative, is creative. But if we think about it as creative it becomes a lot more apparent. We can turn our lives into art. Compassion is an art. Life as art.

We need to try and recognize the world, and ourselves, for what they are: endlessly changing and transforming things that have no definite shape or being.

Once we can achieve this kind of mindfulness, this kind of perpetual novelty, I think that we can begin to really change ourselves, to really control ourselves. If we can learn to pay attention to the world in new ways we can transform ourselves. Every act can be transformative, creative, imaginative, wise.

I think this is what control really is: the active transformation of the self through mindfulness. Learn to see the world like a child, constantly wordless and aware, mindful. Look at the world as if though it were constantly shocking, surprising.

I want life to be endlessly novel, I want to be perpetually transformed by mindful observation of my life.

So, to conclude. let me summarize. This has been very personal, and everything in here is representative of my thoughts and experiences, and is no way prescriptive. I am not trying to tell anybody else how to think. When I say 'you' or 'us' or whatever, I am just speaking for myself in vague and general terms. I claimed that I think it's best to think not in terms of the quantity of thought, but in terms of the quality of thought. I then argued that the quality of my thought can be described in three ways: 1. It is immediate and uncontrollable, it is often something that I simply experience, not something I have to 'do.' 2. That my thoughts often drift towards other people's minds, and I can't help but think about other people's thoughts. 3. And that the most important thing is how my thoughts about other people effect me. I then discussed simulation, and claimed that it was my mind that had to bring other people's thoughts to life. Then I argued that because I was responsible for simulating other people's thoughts, thought has to be egocentric. It must revolve around our perspective and experiences. I also claimed, however, that it is possible to craft a conscientious egocentrism, in which we take other people's views into account and act compassionately. I then explored the closely related idea of 'forgiving everyone for everything', by which I mean finding ways to think creatively about explaining painful behavior. In particular, I wanted to undercut the idea of control and reason in blaming criminals. I then discussed how I have reconceptualized control in light of these other ideas. I concluded that control does not work the way I have been led to believe: it is not a simple process of deliberate or rational thought, and that I am often more compelled than to do something rather than choosing something. I then claimed that control should be thought of, rather, as something is achieved through active transformation of the self. I offered some alternative metaphors that stressed the importance of being patient and working with yourself, and above all paying attention to yourself. I then went on to explain how transformation of the self could be achieved by relabeling familiar things with new terms. This would enable us to think in new ways, and would enable a sort of mindfulness that would let us examine ourselves. I then discussed the neuroscience that confirms that mindfulness can cause neuroplastic change, in essence showing that paying attention and relabeling can lead to physical changes in the brain, and thus the self. Lastly, I explained that I want to experience my life as endless novelty and perpetual transformation. I want to experience everyday as dynamic, new, and raw.

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