Don’t Squander Your Capacity to Conceive of the Infinite

Andrew Malcolm paddling Comox Harbour, Vancouver Island, 2007

Thinking is mental activity that’s remembered, as opposed to mental activity that isn’t remembered. Thus there is a step that proceeds thinking: translating mental activity into a form recollectable through short-term memory. My essay is a description of the basic, initial steps taken to translate mental activity into thought (there’s a readable and downloadable PDF on my homepage,

This simple model of thought (where mental activity is translated into a form recollectable through short-term memory) points to a simple practice for quieting the mind: focusing on non-communicable-thoughts instead of communicable-thoughts, and remembering that communicable-thoughts are words, visualizations, or something else that can be externalized for the benefit of another conscious mind, or for the benefit of the future-self.

I believe this exercise is inherent to meditation. Meditation practice asks the practitioner to remain still and quite-minded for some duration of time. The stillness is a commitment to doing nothing in the near future, so that the fairly typical thoughts that are inventories of what I’m going to do today, how I might solve this problem, or what steps I should take to do this or that, become communications to nobody in the near future, nobody that cares to hear the inventories anyway. Meditation also positively-reinforces attention on non-communicable internal-events. Focusing on the breath is focusing on an experience-of-awareness that the meditating mind knows does not need to be translated and remembered for any future-self.

So here’s a practice for quieting the mind, that makes sense in the context of my essay: focus on non-communicable thoughts, remembering that thoughts, feelings and experiences-of-awareness that you can communicate to other people are also communicable to yourself in the future. You relieve your future-self of the burden of remembered-thinking by focusing on feelings that can’t be described, such as those that are associated with very specific places or loved-ones, or on conceptual understandings that don’t consciously stick around, and instead fade away like a dream remembered for only a few moments after waking up.

Thoughts are always remembered, so thoughts can be thought of as access to a future self. I believe this concept applies to both the self and to external-actors. Marketing campaigns want to establish the thought inside many conscious minds that is some equiavlent to, “in the future I want to remember to buy that”. My essay describes how remembered-thinking also establishes abstract concepts for a future-self, that have to be for a future-self because abstracts are language’s pinnacle-success in establishing infinite-permanence through remembered-thinking.

We all have to remind ourselves to buy certain things, and we all have to remember which teams we are supposed to ‘believe’ the same incentives as. We all have to sacrifice our capacity to conceive of the infinite in order to survive in a world that insists on understanding, with perfect certainty, who we are and what we’re going to do.

Fight that force. Don’t squander your capacity to conceive of the infinite.

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