Time, the mind, and invisible gorillas.

Today’s tangent comes to you via the idea of naming weird mental patterns. From semantic fixation to mind spirals, enjoy!

Time is a weird thing. For one, its measurement is a completely human construct–we created this odd notion of time that is the fundamental framework for our lives. Why is a second as long as it is? How did we create a second?  Questions like these start me on what I like to call a “mind spiral”. I’m relatively certain this is a term I just made up (I used Nathan’s strategy of googling it), so let me explain: a mind spiral is where you think about something a little bit confusing, and then you start to stretch it out–perhaps looking at it on a larger scale or maybe just getting further and further from understanding whatever it is you’re thinking about. For me, the ultimate conclusion is generally being pleasantly confused or overwhelmed.

Here’s another example: I’m in a class called Shakespeare and Literary Theory and recently we looked at semiotics–the study of signs and symbols and their use and interpretation. In particular, we looked at de Saussure, a founder of the field. One of his ideas is the notion that there’s no inherent “catness” to a cat–it’s a signifier that refers to the signified (an actual, tangible cat) and when combined, these make a sign. This is something I also talked about in a previous Communications class and it alway gets me inevitably swirled into a mind spiral that consists of the following: can we think outside of language? Every thought in my head currently is in words, particularly English ones. One of the few ways we can move outside of that is to learn another language, but even then we’re still confined to whatever new language we learned.

Mind Spirals

I feel this accurately represents my (sometimes) blissful state of confusion: large, swirly lights photographed at Disney World.

Inevitably this will probably lead to my mind spiral causing me to consider the origins of language and thought and nice simple stuff like that. My brain always feels a little fuzzy after a mind spiral, but here’s the point I’m attempting to get to in a rather roundabout way: mind spirals are good. Being confused every now and then, I think, is a good thing.

Often in life (particularly in college) we focus a lot on understanding. We have to understand to do well on tests or succeed at a job and we become so focused on this that we forget to take the time to be confused. Perhaps my worry is this: if we’re always looking to understand, what are we missing in the confusion? Maybe it’s an invisible gorilla. Maybe it’s the feeling of wonderment that can come from not being able to fully comprehend something. Maybe it’s just taking a moment to be unsettled.

Today, then, I suppose I end with a challenge: take a moment, find your own personal mind spiral, and be confused.


One thought on “Time, the mind, and invisible gorillas.

  1. Pingback: Sleep (or lack of it) and creativity. | Tangents

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