Do we know how to think? That's not as crazy a question as it seems. It started this morning with my wondering why we become entrapped in stories that we take to be reality. Like the Bible, or Koran, or the Tao te Ching, or the Mahabharata. These books are holy books, yes, and at the core of their culture's belief systems, but they are only stories. Stories that tell us how about the meaning of the world, how to act in it, and how to think. Because our thoughts are where we are most puzzled. The rest is easy, eating, sleeping, making love, working. Yet our thoughts affect our day-to-day reality and shape who we are and what we do. They are crucially important to our self-identities. Our thoughts compose us and compose our view of the world around us. But the ability to do this is a relatively new creation, entirely dependent on a 2mm layer on top of the cerebral hemispheres, the neopallium (Latin for "new mantle"), or neocortext as it is more commonly called, only about 200 million years old. This tiny layer, which is wrinkled into deep grooves in humans, thus packing in the neouronal columns, composed of some 10 billion neurons, is responsible for "sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, and in humans, language and conscious thought."
It is the language and conscious thought part that I am musing on. It seems to me that our thoughts are a giddy, wild place, composed of giddy, wild language bits, and that, to tame the inner riots, we create stories that tell us how to think. Because we don't know on our own. We are all busy searching for 'states of consciousness' that will enable us to exist peacefully with the rampant energies of the synaptic connections in our modern brains. Afterall, we're not just thinkers, but conscious of our thinking. And being 'self-conscious' is one of the most difficult states to be in.
Is that why we believe the powerful stories of our culture? Why we take them to be accurate versions of the truth? Because it settles our thoughts, having a specific set of ideas to work with, a certain way to think?
This post is only about some questions I had preparing an omlette for my son, who is visiting for a few days.
Did the omellete curve and bellow like a neopallium? I can't say, but perhaps.