What if you were asked to make a detailed list of those things you’ve never thought about? But as each thing comes to mind, you’ll have to cross it out, wouldn’t you? After all, now that you’ve thought about it, the subject is no longer in the abyss; it is no longer untouched.
My feral mind doesn’t always stay on the path, so perhaps it has entertained a few thoughts that might be difficult for some of you to mount up, much less ride. I know you can’t read my mind, but if you could, many of you wouldn’t want to. Besides, it would probably be banned in some jurisdictions, anyway. My thoughts are often not on a leash, so the few things that have never crossed my mind may not show up at all on the radar screens of more regimented people. But I’ll make no apology for that.
I’ve been trying to think of a single thing that has never crossed my mind. But the very moment a new thought shows up, I notice the trail of its footprints across my mind already. If you could see inside my mind right now, you’d realize that not all of my thoughts wipe their feet before entering.
It’s hard to think of a thing without thinking about it, isn’t it? The first hour on this project conjured up some of the silliest stuff, as the premise required some presumption of the unlikelihood of even thinking about it. For example, I had previously thought of a frog in a ballet class as an example of awkwardness, so I went down the path of putting other strange creatures in a tutu and slippers, but once the picture came to mind, it no longer qualified.
I thought of a turtle doing a pirouette, pliées, and demi-pliées while the Nutcracker Suite plays in the background. I’ve thought of a warthog wearing a tuxedo driving a trolley car singing: “Old Man River”. Imagine a skunk on a skateboard reading a newspaper. It might be idiotic, but it has now crossed your mind, so you cannot say it hasn’t.
This is a tough assignment. You can come up with a list of irrational or even things you are certain are undoable (though they may not be). You could write eleven thousand, two hundred-twenty recipes for popcorn. Though most might be inedible, or at least not very appetizing, once thought of, it can never again hold the status of something that had never crossed your mind.
I even tried to consider a variable between conscious and unconscious thought. The problem with that is, once a concept has surfaced, it can no longer exist only in the translucent cloudy realms of dreamland entirely–it has crossed your mind. Perhaps it may have tripped and fallen a couple of times, but it did cross your mind if you can even think of it at all. For those of you with stormy minds, I’m sure heavier thoughts would not wish to cross them in a row boat.
I’m sure you have heard people say: “It never has occurred to me…”, or “I can’t think of a single reason…” wherein we get a glimpse of their previous list of obscurities only to see it torn down by some random notion taking up residence, thus destroying the anonymity of some heretofore hidden hypothesis.
Here’s an assignment: Sit where you are for a moment, and do NOT think of a toad in a top hat singing “God Bless America”. Too late! It crossed your mind, so scratch it off your list.
For those of you who may have been successful and did not think of a toad in a top hat singing, you may be excused. There would be no benefit in asking you to read any further. Just sit quietly ’til they come for you.
Now it is quite possible to think of things outside your understanding of them, as would be exampled by most people’s attempts to explain quantum mechanics or string theory, or by trying to make any sense at all out of a host of ideologies humans seem to think are immutably true. I’ll give you that. But what I cannot give, is honest permission to claim something has never been thought of once it has crossed your mind.
We can think of something for the first time. It would be marvelous to capture into words the thoughts of a baby when it has its initial experience with solid food. The baby usually has that happen long before words mean much of anything at all. The second taste may occur with some enthusiasm, but not without having crossed the mind of the child before.
If you turn your imagination loose and let it run about freely, you can come up with visualizations that have not previously popped into your head. You can imagine all kinds of things, some you will admit to in polite company, and some you’ll hang onto for private moments of mirth or fantasy.
Imagine yourself in a large cathedral, and the choir is filled with all of the cartoon characters of your youth. Without further prompting, I’m sure you will now invision some situations that have never crossed your mind, but as each mind picture occurs, you have to eliminate it because the occurrence has now already happened.
Now, just as you think you’ve taken this nonsense as far as it can go, imagine Porky Pig stepping forward to sing a very emotional solo version of “Blessed Assurance”. And you can’t even put that on your list because now, you’ve already thought it. Some of you are trying to mimic Porky singing that hymn this very moment. If you work in an open cubicle, or are sitting in a coffee house while reading this, realize that other people may be staring at you right now.
Then comes the question of memory. Sooner or later, everyone forgets something, because our mental pegboard of what is out front isn’t big enough to keep everything on it. So, a lot of our thoughts and experiences are tucked way in the back of the bottom drawers of our mind’s various toolboxes. Some doctors think many of us have suppressed memories that we are not consciously aware of, but for them to be memories at all, they would’ve had to been on our minds at least once, no matter how long ago, or how distant.
Some folks go through quite a loss of memory either through trauma, or through some aspect of the aging process. In some instances, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, people often have experiences with things as if some new information is unfolding even though it isn’t. Science has uncovered a good bit in recent years. But still there is so much to learn. So much more has not yet crossed a single solitary scientific mind, or at least not one with the forethought and presence of mind to write down a good idea when it sees one.
We’ve all heard jokes about folks who have to be retrained at work each time they return from a break, and about those who seem to wake up in a new world every day. Most of us have experienced or know sad stories about loved ones who have gone through such difficulties of not being able to remember things. The sadness of it hides something from us, making the kindness of it hard, if not almost impossible to see.
But for a moment, imagine the adventure that would be afoot, and the exhilarating experiences that would follow just waking up one morning on a very clear day with no memories at all. For many of us, we would start all over making a collection of explanations for everything we would experience. We might even find explanations to things we are beginning to think about, but have not experienced.
And, as it has been in the past, once the explanation becomes acceptable, no requirement would be placed on it whatsoever that it had to be true. It will be allowed to hang around until some other explanation comes along that we had not thought about before, yet sounds better to us than the old one. We might come to believe the new one, but doing so still doesn’t make it true–it just makes it acceptable.
So is it possible for people to question something they think is true? Can you possibly have some doubt about something you have always believed to be true? Well, it’s possible, but don’t worry. If you keep your mind closed tightly enough, such thoughts as that cannot get a toe-hold in your consciousness. If you won’t think about it, it will never cross your mind.