How do you think?
Isn’t that a good question?
How do you think?
Supposing you wish to conceive an idea, a design, say, for a much better way of getting the duvet into the duvet cover. Perhaps a way of holding the acres of fabric that you could teach in a video, or a small device that could do the grasping at the time the ends slip out of your fingers just as you had them very nearly up to the corners. Or, mayhap, a collapsible machine that would stow away under the bed. It would have to work on all sizes of duvet from cot quilt to super dooper oligarch four poster size. It would have to be easy to manufacture and so obvious that every entrepreneur on the planet would expend endless research budgets trying to go one better and failing miserably. Finally, in the far distant future, long thin silver people with giant heads would watch the bed robot change the air duvet and tell their pupae ‘Humans used to do that by hand, long ago,’ and they would all fall around laughing.
So, how do you think of that? I know you are now, because I’ve just put the idea in your head. What is more, I know you will think of it at least twice. Now and next time you change the bed.
I find it interesting that if a thousand people read this column, they will think of the solution, or dismiss the question, in a thousand different ways. Did you know that there are more potential connections in the human brain than atoms in the known universe?
That is what thinking is. It is electrical connections in the human brain. It’s your synapses waving to each other through the fog. Your life experience strengthens certain connections and leaves others alone until a pathway is established. Once the pathway is there the electric thoughts flash along like one of those images of night traffic in Shanghai, or Las Vegas, or Pigend village on a Saturday night (two bicycles and a badger.)
That is what happens when you think, your will, your soul, your Id, your you commands the grey matter, which in itself is thinking, to think and instantly, magically, your plastic brain (in the sense of movable, not in the sense of bottles clogging up the nearest whale), lights up, whirrs around for a bit and comes up with ‘Dunno, need chocolate.’
Thinking is incredible. In half a page of reading you’ve considered making an invention, visited the future, imagined three different locations on the planet and one under the sea and even thought about your brain doing all this thinking and now you want chocolate and your eyes haven’t even left the page yet. Unless there’s a fly in the room. And now, even if there isn’t, there’s a fly in your head.
I’ll just stop for some quick chocolate (I’m my own worst enemy, I really am.)
So wherefore all this thinking thinking, hmm?
I am plotting the next novel and have found that the best way to generate ideas is to paint the shed. (I did. It was Oxford blue, very ten years ago. Now it is Celtic Cream. Looks fresh as new paint, for some reason.) My brain, distracted, gets on with the thinking all on its own. (I had to keep going indoors to write the ideas down.) Or I get on with a workout and have to keep getting off the twist stepper to jot down plot twists.
Or make Christmas cards, which I am currently doing.
So that’s how I think. I very deliberately don’t.
How do you think? (You won’t have any idea now I’ve asked but you may wake up in the middle of the night shouting ‘I put my special thinking jeans on Jane, you git, I was having a nice dream! Or ‘I was just talking to the vicar and suddenly invented a new sort of toaster.’ Or ‘I was eating my sixth waffle and suddenly realised what to do about my weight problem.’)
The human brain, thinking, is the most amazing thing in existence on this little blue planet all alone in the universe. (And here we are in outer space.) And back home in front of the Internet, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee, who thought of a way I could tell you what I’m thinking once a week and you could tell me: How do you think?