4. The Present Moment (2)

Posted on October 6, 2007

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Very often, we say, in making cause with an explanation of what is going on with something, words to the effect that what is really happening is … : “It is not really that …” – “What’s actually happening is —”  – “What is in fact happening .. is” …  On the nature of thought for example.  The inclination is to say, “I am not really ‘thinking’ when I think; because when I think what is actually happening is that there are synapses at work, there is neuronal activity, which is the actual stuff or substance of thought – rather than merely what I call thinking or ‘thinking itself.'”   Suppose we put it like this.  It is as if with this kind of discussion the present moment fails us.  Someone telling me a story, the story is intelligible; I can even see it in their eyes: the whole story is there!   They don’t speak in perfect sentences, they leave out many details, they often use annoyingly ambiguous pronouns, maybe a few facts get mixed up, put back to front – but then I understand it all.  Imagine that it is about something quite banal, for example a typical ordinary trip to the supermarket.  I understand them!  I don’t need anything else some sort of oscilloscope set collared up with a lie detector, with its leads attached to their heads and wrists to monitor the hidden but thus detectable physical truth.  I don’t need a data sheet that sets out in a report the inner workings of their minds, in psychologese.   I don’t need to understand the laws of causation.  All I need to do to understand them is to look at their eyes, or perhaps look along the street in the same direction as they are looking, to accompany their mood and be in sympathy with them. 

Nothing else.  Here I want to say that I am completely at home with this person, I fully understand them.  Why, then, should ‘thought’ ever be anything other than we take it to be at any given moment?  How is it that, sometimes, it is actually or seems to be actually something else – foreign, unknown? 

I perpetually stand one answer in place of another, on and backwards, down and down, but thus am I homeless.  Foreign to the world, not in a benign way but stupidly, at a loss.

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