I have a question that i want to ask but i don’t really know what the right words are. i’m going to give a brief overview of the idea of the sort of question i want to ask and then proceed to address each part more thoroughly. recently, i was thinking about how human beings incorporate new experiences into their life. but the word ‘experiences’ is too vague so i want to create some classification for it. another day to rephrase it is how do we process external stimuli but this wording seems too biological? in a broader sense, i suppose you could even think of it as how does we process life itself? how do we classify the different parts of life: the people, the thoughts, the emotions and the events? and what does each moment become after it is experienced? a memory or simply another additional drop added to our age. and finally, what are we seeking for in our life experiences or what am I seeking for in my life?
I don’t really provide any formal definition for any of the things I talk about so every is going to be hand-wavy. This is mostly a brainstorming exercise so I apologize for the inconsistencies
the things that we experience
So what are this things that we experience? there’s people, but you’re really only concerned about the things they say, how they look or ultimately, how well they are in bed. there’s books, music, art, food. there’s thoughts and emotions.
This question is actually epistemological and the only sort of formal philosophical answer that I remember being given is this one from the IB TOK course. (I don’t know why I keep returning to TOK, seriously.)
Ways of knowing: (sense perception, reason, emotion, authority and language/tone/symbols/nomenclature). from Wikipedia
I like it except I think we can distill it further. Remove authority and language/tone/… and we have senses, reason and emotions, which is a pretty good trio. You probably could argue that every sense perception in the end has to evoke an emotion or some reasonable thought, but being an armchair philosopher, I’m not going to bother and keep it in there.
People. We interact with people through language and physical touch. Both of these things are to transfer the above three things I mentioned. I’m going to call these three objects R.E.S. to be lazy. Books or media in general; the factual ones convey reason, the literature one convey emotions. Art, whatever form it may be in, is a pleasure for the senses. And finally thoughts and feelings that arise out of seemingly nowhere (although many would say that these must come from something.) So maybe, I could include another quality here, primary or secondary. Primary are the ones that you come up with, thoughts you had, feelings that you feel, triggered by something. Then, there are the secondary ones, basically all the ones that are intended to be passed to you. Media employ the use of language/symbols/sensory stimulus to convey reason and emotion to the reader.
if there are no complaints about my really terrible classification system mentioned above, we shall move onto the the next component
how do we process and store it?
Many people say you decide how you want to live your life, but i think it’s more important how you decide to store/remember your life. sure, things happen but if are a person with a memory of 10 minutes, what would life actually mean? as art is based on all art that came before it, one’s life is based on all life that was lived before it. to do that though, you need to have some way to store all the things you experience.
every single second, (which is another interesting concept since that’s sort of the smallest amount of time we can generally feel. but athletes such as sprinters, shooters who have to train to shoot between heartbeats will tell you that 1 second is a long time), there’s so much external stimuli that is passing through our body. for the most part, it is ignored. sensory information is the most ubiquitous but they are the easiest to block out. you can look without seeing, hear without listening, eat without tasting, touch without feeling, and smell without (insert word)-ing. i guess it’s not surprising that stimuli is rarely or i would argue never remembered singularly. it’s always remembered in association with a feeling or a thought.
moving on to reason and emotion. I’m going to talk about them together because it is not obvious which is what in your thoughts. Our brains are good at self-deceiving. reason can be because of emotion and vice versa. often times, thoughts come and go, especially those that you agree with completely and those that you don’t at all. The ones that are truly significant are the ones that you never thought about before or the ones people tell you which you don’t agree or disagree with fully. These are the ones that engage you into thought. I then try to find and solve the logical fallacies that accepting this statement would generate in my currently existing ideas. But either they resolve, or my attention is moved onto other things. but that’s no to say mine or I think anyone’s thoughts are some logically consistent machine. In fact, I think human brains are far from it, so many contradictions. It could be just me, but when I was younger, I would think that someday, a little thought or a little piece of information would change me life. But I don’t agree anymore. I don’t think people can very accurately point to a specific moment in any mental transformation. It’s usually many small but incremental steps.
I think it needs to be mentioned that it is necessary for us to try to have our thoughts be as relevant as possible. As I said before, life is based on previous life experiences. Since it is so easy for thoughts to come and go, the only way to keep them alive is to take advantage of the strongly associative nature of our neural networks and learn relevant things that will naturally become part of our brain.
You can think of these processes as knowledge or wisdom accumulation. Becoming knowledgeable or wise takes time, a lot of it. Greatness is not momentary. Greatness is made, incremented everyday, every day of your life. To be wise or knowledgeable, you need self-discipline and patience.
what do I want to know?
This is the last question but I think the one that everyone is trying to answer as well. It’s great to be this insanely intelligent person who understands completely how a very specific part of knowledge works. But I’m a lot more piqued by human nature, by human condition, by human connection. Two thoughts I have. What is the diversity of human thought and human condition in the world? What kind of thoughts are human beings capable of? I’m sure many of you will be familiar with PostSecret, a site which puts up anonymous postcards from people talking about their secrets. I really like it because it shows how diverse our thoughts are. It shows the range of experiences people are actually going through. I think day to day life, especially American life, sweeps all of the ugly stuff under the covers. Everyone is supposed to be happy, in shape, motivated. Everyone has a personal story so tragic or encouraging that it would move you to great joy or sorrow. The other thing the fragility of connections between human beings. With social networks, we know a lot about the little things in other people’s lives but we don’t know the hidden parts. Some of my favorite romance movies which happen to be popular among females or chick flicks as they call it are appealing to me because the human connection between people is examined in detail. And no, not mean girls. I just watched Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, and I really really enjoyed every moment of it. It was just the amazing feeling to seeing a connection form between two human beings, observe and identify with all the subtle verbal hints, facial expressions.
Sorry Jim, I think I’ve joined the humanists.