Monday, June 11, 2007

Thought Process

It isn’t uncommon that ideas come to me unexpectedly from out of the clear blue. Not unexpected in terms of being taken aback - as though some kind of new and wholly profound experience has fallen upon me, but rather in terms of the unpredictability of such epiphanies. Although I still can’t easily pull them out of nowhere, these inspired moments of enlightenment occur frequently, albeit irregularly. And there does not seem to be any set of common factors surrounding these special moments - they apparently appear at will and sometimes just as spontaneously disappear.

One such thought re-occurred to me while driving home from work today. Often these themes will expire when not acted upon and this particular one has done so more than once. In fact, that it has revisited me is the exception, not the rule. Indeed, the inspiration nearly slipped away again today - it took a great deal of effort to conjure it back up again as I did not take note when it originally hit me. Ironically, it has to do with the way thought is processed.

Until just a few months ago, I had the opportunity to receive some of the wisdom acquired by someone who had walked a path I would soon be traveling. He was something of a mentor… a guide to help navigate what would be a journey of the body, mind and spirit. When communicating in such abstract terms, often the means of communication is more critical than what is actually said. To help me to understand, my mentor explained to me how he assembled ideas in his head. He explained how he thought.

“When I think, I think in pictures,” he said. “It’s like a series of snapshots and sometimes moving pictures in my head.” He went on to explain how relaying what he was thinking in his head was an exercise in describing what he “saw.” It helped me to understand what he was trying to teach me; it helped that I knew how he thought. It helped even though I don’t think that way. And that might be why it helped, and I think he knew that.

I think in words and concepts. I think in English. I think in numbers. Even memories I have are primarily stored in words and recalled that way. The image attached to a thought or memory is usually only a secondary frame of reference; a “see also” addendum that would not necessarily be independently visualized, but rather a reference to a linguistic stimulus. I learn more and faster by reading, listening and writing than by seeing. And that is perhaps why knowing under what thought process my guide operated made it possible to understand better what he was trying to say.

By working back from what he said and knowing from where it came, I was able to assemble a working model of the concept he was relaying to me. Although I didn’t appreciate it at first, I was dealing with a profoundly wise man. He must have known how to get me on the same page; he couldn’t have been that lucky. He knew I would use the analytical thought process I was bound to and use it to complete the idea he was describing from his pictures. And it worked like a charm.

It occurred to me that this idea of thought processes is not a binary phenomenon. It isn’t either words or pictures. It is likely a combination - no one is exclusively one way or the other. Furthermore, like abstract dimensions beyond the three physical spatial dimensions (four if time is included), there are quite likely other mechanisms in which thoughts are assimilated and expressed that are not within my ability to understand - yet I accept that they exist. Furthermore, I believe it is within my power to not only understand others, but to be able to explain myself as well. Just like my mentor did for me.


Karen said...

How great that you have a mentor on this journey you're on. That must be very helpful. Sometimes I wish I had a mentor!

Michele sent me today. Hope you're having a great day!

kenju said...

For me, it is definitely a combination. Childhood memories, for example, are thought about in pictures, and books and school work, are stored in words. This is an interesting concept about how to get another person to follow your thought processes.

Jennie said...

Hi, thanks for the visit and the interesting, helpful comment. About your post, having children helped me to realize how differently people think, and therefore, how I think. (They do tend to be mentors!) All three of my kids learn and think in very different ways, I've seen. I am more like you, words and not so visual. And speaking of memories, I somehow just put your name together with the lady next door to my home when I was little. A widow, Mrs. Althouse.

awareness said...

Hi there....great topic!!

I believe this is the key to exceptional teaching. A great teacher is cognizant of their students' myriad of thinking processes and accomodates for all. Tiring and demanding....but necessary. I also think that the very best teachers who are capable of identifying and applying their knowledge to their lesons should be teaching our youngest....Kindergarten, Grade 1 and 2, because then they can help the child and family set the stage for the love of learning. Nothing is more frustrating to a person (especially a young child) who has troubles fitting in....or learning from a process that makes no sense to them.

personally, I have found that with respect to my writing, most is internally visualized....but I also "hear" the words and how they sound in my head.....a rhythm forms as well as patterns before I ever sit down to you I am often struck by one thought and from there it's like a ripple effect until I have enough to start the writing.

I have tried to write by using a photo I have taken as the starting point and it always feels awkward AND I'm never as pleased with the results than if I started with the rhythm and word play and then incorporated a pic or photo afterwards.

Lee Ann said...

Just stopped by to say hi and say I hope all is well with you!
Lee Ann

Snaggle Tooth said...

I tend to combine methods constantly, n add music.
When writing stories I do picture the scene n hear the dialogue.
Interesting how different minds work!