This morning I am thinking about thinking.
This morning I am thinking about the brain like it’s a computer. (Which means that this morning, I’m right. Also that I got the idea from the author Myke Cole. On Twitter.) The brain can do almost limitless work, but it isn’t actually limitless: there are a finite number of thoughts that I can think in my lifetime. It’s a large number, an imponderably staggering number — but still finite. When I give my brain a chance, it can think of some excellent creations. But too much of the time, I decide that my brain is tired, and that it could use some downtime.
I don’t think my brain actually gets tired. I’m sure it runs out of resources, runs low on fuel and energy; but usually, I suspect that the issue is that I am tired of my brain, and I want it to stop. I want to shut it off. I try to sleep, and sometimes I fall asleep with no trouble, the brain flipping into Sleep mode with the press of a button, the closing of my eyes; but sometimes, it keeps going, trying to finish a particular thought-cycle; it is worst when that cycle gets stuck in a loop. Around my anxieties, usually. But just the fact that my brain can keep going even when my body and soul are entirely exhausted tells me: my brain doesn’t get tired. It’s a machine. It runs for as long as I keep it plugged in — and though I don’t remember my dreams, I have them, which means it keeps running even when I shut it down.
This morning I suspect that my brain is most insistent in those thought-cycles when I have not spent enough time paying attention to useful thoughts: when I have spent too much time wallowing in trash thoughts.
A computer is a powerful machine, but it is only as efficient and effective as its inputs: GIGO is the word, Garbage In, Garbage Out. (I learned that at summer camp when I was ten. I took a programming class. My summer camp was cool.) And my problem is that when I decide that my brain is tired, I input garbage so that the thoughts will become — less troubling, maybe? Less effective, certainly, in that the thoughts have less effect on me. I’m tired of thinking. I want to relax, and somehow, that has taken on the definition of “thinking about garbage.” So I watch TV, I play idiotic video games, I scroll through social media. Purposeless, but enjoyable. It feels relaxing.
But this morning, I think these inputs are viruses. They put their own information into my brain-puter, (Compubrain? Combrainter? This is all bad. You know what I’m realizing this morning? “Computer” is an ugly word. “Brain” isn’t any better.) and then more often than not, my own thoughts, my own programs and content, get shunted aside in favor of the viral inputs. I get caught up in video games — “Just one more! Just one more!” — and I find myself wasting hours, staying up later and later, turning to the video games during the day even when I’m not tired of thinking. The same with the social media, which is simply an eternal scrawl, requiring an active decision to stop zombie-plodding through it, and while I’m taking in images and words, I’m not going to stop easily. Even if — especially if — they’re bad images and words, uninteresting ones, because then I keep seeking good posts, good information among the mounds and pools of shlock. The movies and TV are even more insidious, as they worm into my thought-files and corrupt them with their own information, so that my brain gets stuck making references to movies and TV, repeating lines and scenes and images and other bits of viral data. Then even my ideas replicate the viruses’ ideas: and that, I suspect, is why Hollywood has become so very good at remaking remakes and sequelling sequels.
This morning I’d like to say that I am going to stop watching TV and movies, and stop looking at social media, and stop playing video games. But I don’t want to lie. I’m not going to stop. Not only are they important to me — as downtime, which whether my brain needs it or not, the rest of me does, and I associate it with those things; though I may try some new kinds of downtime, like easy reading or writing, or listening to music while I drink wine, or something like that — but they are a part of my career, as social media is the best way to advertise as a self-published author, and also a part of my society, which is steeped in pop culture, and I want to stay connected and relevant. But I want to do some simple things that will mitigate the effects of these viral inputs, this malware. First, I will build firewalls: I will set limits as to when and how much I take in. Second, I will dedicate more time to using my computing cycles more productively; yesterday I spent my walk with my dogs thinking about things; last night I read; this morning I am writing. (I’m going to do it again tomorrow morning.)
I slept very well last night. I also took a splendid nap yesterday. So I’m thinking now that when I’m tired off thinking, I should sleep: and when I am not tired, I should keep thinking productively. My brain will keep running anyway; I’d rather it thought about truth and beauty, than about Candy Crush and reality shows.