WHAT IS HUMAN THOUGHT?
2/6/89
Document 454N
Copyright (c) Jan M. Cox, 1989
 
Would you like me to tell your thinking apparatus what thinking actually is? Would you like me to tell you what the internal Partnership actually is? Would you like me to tell you, in strictly physical terms, what is going on within you? Would you like me to tell you, on an absolutely cut and dried, biophysical basis, what This Activity is? Would any of you like me to explain, using no more than a few high school biological terms, the very things which seem uniquely human? That is, in a way that would physically explain your thinking, your so-called personality, the Partnership, human problems, and "the eternal questions"?

 I keep warning you, and I know you keep forgetting, that human existence may have some things in common with root-hogs, slugs and ferrets. But there is apparently some area wherein we leave the world of blood and guts, and go somewhere else. What if I could describe to you just where the "somewhere else" is located, and describe it so plainly that anyone who actually has the ability to think -- which certainly does not include all of you at any particular time -- would see it immediately. And that would be that. Who would like that? If I could answer for some of you, I would suggest that if you really understood the question, you should at least put up some resistance on the chance that having such a thing shown to you might take all the fun out of This. Or at least you should try to gauge how much longer I might live and see if you could strike a deal. That is, for me to tell you such a thing when you finally ask me directly, and not before.

 Can you by now begin to see that everything, in a quite real sense, is in a state of symbiosis? Symbiosis being the existing together of two -- and I would say "or more" -- organisms, in a condition which is mutually beneficial. The Partnership is not confined to one level. There is a condition of symbiosis existing all the way from your own cellular level to the makeup of galaxies. What makes it of particular interest, in connection with my rhetorical questions earlier, is the unrecognized fact that ordinary human existence is not delicate. People are not fragile.

 Life is not fragile. This is true from the cellular level to the cosmic level. It is perhaps archetypical of mothers, for example, always to be warning children of the dangers of picking up food off the ground, and the necessity to wash one's hands. "Germs are everywhere...you'll die, you'll get sick." But by now, have any of you taken notice that life on this planet, as regards Man, is not actually very hostile? All the little creatures that live in us and on us...Do you realize how resilient people really are? Do you realize how difficult it is to get sick? (Except for a few of you, I know.) Regardless of what your mother said, you can go out and pick up something someone threw out of a car -- of course I'm not telling you to -- or work in a sewer, wipe off your hands, and eat a sandwich. Even out in the City, there is growing knowledge that the cries about the environmental fragility of planet Earth, and the effects of pollution, may have been overstated.

 I've told you all that things are not falling apart. Life is not going downhill. It is in fact becoming more complex and more intelligent. That's what This is about, and that's why you are interested in This (no matter what it's called). But the "bad news syndrome" is extant even at the cellular level. It is not the news networks scaring everyone about pollution and disease -- they are run like everyone else, that is, from the cellular level. But notice, regardless of the "bad news syndrome," the cellular level is healthy. You are healthier than your parents were. Life itself is healthier, day after day. There is less and less evidence of really overt, non-friendly bacteria and parasites. Even in some areas of biology they are beginning to theorize that viruses may not be directly hostile to the host, but that viral illness results when a symbiotic relationship is upset. In other words, that a small creature already present in your system got sick itself, and your illness is a byproduct.

 As you know, this is not by any means a lecture on biology or hard science. But you have to be able to look around and see that being alive is not that hostile an episode. I know that people are being killed and are starving. I know all that. But look at you: you have made it this far in spite of the fact that you are surrounded by news from "out there" and from your cellular level (which is the same thing) crying out about survival fears. Destruction, sickness, or bad luck seems always to be around the corner. You may be all right now, but something terrible "could happen." But now I ask you: has it?

 You are not fragile. Life is not fragile. Survival fears are a holdover from old intelligence. Fear is the one emotion which runs humanity. We could call it other things, but it is fear. What is there to be afraid of? From a certain quite real, hard-nosed view, human life on this planet is pretty safe, stable, and predictable. The reason that things make the news -- disasters, killings, burglaries -- is that such a hostile occurrence is, in a real sense, an aberration. Other than the fact that we're all going to die... But between here and there, life is pretty safe.

 Notice, though, how everybody has the feeling that life is tenuous; that you must watch out for people attacking you, and for germs and illness. You have to watch out for lightning, and be careful not to drown if you take up boating. People SAY that they are careful, but in a sense hardly anyone is careful. You don't really have to BE careful: Life is careful. What does it really say when I point out that Life is safe and predictable? Am I saying that Life is specifically arranged to be agreeable and safe for man? If you are centered in that way, you are quite ordinary, and it's one step from there to being religious in the unprofitable sense. What is being said is that Life itself is safe to itself. Life is stable; Life is well.

 At the cellular level the fear for survival is still built into all of us. The information in your cellular heritage says that Life is dangerous. This is not a history lesson, but let's assume, as they do in the City, that life was more dangerous 7,000 years ago. (I won't comment that I know different; let's assume that City history is correct.) How often today are you jumped by a saber-toothed tiger? When's the last time the Plague hit your neighborhood? That was a little close for comfort, I'll grant you that; but still, it was 500 years ago. No sign of it seriously showing back up, at least around here.

 LIFE ITSELF IS NOT FRAGILE. That is a matter of simple observation, yet notice the constant hand-wringing on the part of frightened individuals and well-funded research institutions. "Impending Ice Age"..."Irrefutable evidence of coming drastic weather changes"...so what? The planet is not delicate. What if the planet has been through ice ages? Do notice, humanity has not disappeared. The planet has not disappeared. The planet is not even coughing or wheezing.

 From a certain view, This Activity can be said to hover right around the question, "What is human thought?" In the City there is no operational definition of what thinking actually is. Ordinary science simply cannot define it. Life periodically makes people stand up and point this out. And the same people add that human thinking will quite possibly never be understood, because we have to use human thinking to investigate itself. Such people, of course, do not understand the ramifications of what they are saying. But what if I insinuate to you that that analysis is not necessarily correct? Would you want to hear any more? Can you stop me?

 I might be able to drag a few of you up to a point that is almost frightening. What is human thinking? First, as always, human intelligence can only describe what's going on -- it cannot tell you why. It will offer theories about "why," but if you can hear me, those are still speculations about "what." Human thinking cannot tell you "why." I don't care what the subject of study is: political problems, biology, psychology. No one is trying to delude anybody; it's just that in the City, "what" can be turned so many ways. If human thinking could truly tell you "why," it could tell you what thinking is. But that's another story.

 Science attempts to establish a hierarchy of nervous systems. They study chimpanzees for years and attempt to find out if the little hairy creatures approach actual thought. They try to draw cutoff lines: what is it that actually distinguishes Man from the higher primates? The general feeling in human nervous systems is that there is a drastic, quantum step between the intelligence of the highest animals and actual human thinking. It is conceived as a jump which cannot be measured. This is not an unqualified endorsement of orangutans, but there is no inexplicable quantum jump between the higher animals and Man. It is a matter of gradually increasing complexity.

 Scientists know that monkeys are not thinking like we are, but after that they don't know what else to say. They cannot describe what the difference is. Well, how do they know that monkeys aren't thinking like we are? Ordinary thought would reply that it is because such creatures do not talk. But wait a minute. Can they PROVE that the animal is not thinking? No. The point is, science does not know how to define in a singular manner what human thinking is.

 Take a few seconds, and YOU consider this. If I ask you, "What is thinking?" -- what can you do with that question? You're doing it now. Well, actually what IS it? Think about this. What is thinking besides a merry-go-round? A hall of mirrors?

 A chimpanzee's nervous system is doing something. There is something going on in there. Let's call it "chimpanzee thinking." So what is the unique difference between the chimp and us? If we live long enough to see drastic changes in human intelligence, let me give you a scenario of how the discovery might take place. First stage: an individual or group defines real thinking as "being able to think about thinking." Think about it a second. Without that, no creature in the 3-D world would ever speak. Even if a dolphin were having "dolphin thoughts," until its nervous system became complex enough to think about thinking, it could not talk. Put crudely, what's it got to say? That is the real, operational distinction between you and other animals.

 Second stage: someone comes back a few years later and provides the missing piece. Here is what it would be: thinking is only thinking when it can think about the effect that thinking has had on actions. Anything less than that is not thinking. It is an increase in complexity. Not "live and learn'; I said exactly what I meant.

 Even if you're not being struck by all of this, do you at least wonder why I brought it all up? I put it to you as a possible scenario of discovery. But what if I brought it up to tell you something else? Not "what: -- what if I just told you "why"? That is, why the nervous system reached the point where it can not only talk, the nervous system can think about thinking. And of course, talk about thinking about thinking, ad infinitum. And further, it can think about how its thinking affects action (and vice versa). What if there is some validity to that old idea that Man will never understand his cerebral processes through his cerebral processes? But what if that idea is not a contemporaneous cul-de-sac, but a statement of operations? What if it is not a statement of "what the limitations of consciousness are," but "why"? What if an apparent question -- such as, "Why does the sun shine so bright?" -- contains its own answer? Not an explanation of the processes of stellar combustion and eyesight. That is "what." The question was "why." What if some of these questions are answers to "why"?

 "Why cannot ordinary intelligence understand itself?" What if that question is the answer? Not an insoluble paradox, but the answer. A statement of "why." What if "The Answer" that everybody wants CAN be told? I ofttimes say that words can't begin to cover it, but what if that's just a smoke screen? What if words quite adequately cover it and always do?

 What if "The Answer" could be put in words, but what if it is real, real blood-and-gutsy? Human thinking, individuality, personality and all that goes with it -- doubts, fears, and the interest in things such as This -- all the human things apparently far beyond food and sex, what if they all can be explained in one sentence? Who would want to hear that sentence?

 But it can't be put in a blood-and-guts sentence, can it? All of my scenarios are even more complex than things in the City, for those who can hear. They apparently begin to reveal the complexity of things in the City -- the unanswerables. Let's just say this. What if there is only one human thought? The first thought ever thought, whatever it was, is The Thought. It contains everything that humans need to know: arts, literature, science. And after that first thought, everything since then has simply been built upon that first thought; either attacking the thought or some part of it, or supporting it. The second thought was an attack on the first thought, let us say. So what is the third thought? Probably a support of the first thought and a backhand attack on the second thought.

 And now we are down to the "nth generation" of thoughts, and everybody is a critic, not just of the first thought. That's probably long forgotten. Now it's all criticism of criticism. Can you see the process as a beautiful cartoon which blossoms out? Everybody is standing on the shoulders of everybody else, and everybody else is standing on the shoulders of everybody else. It's all real enough. But what if that has something to do with my earlier questions to you regarding thought? I talk about the Partnership, and everybody says, "Yes, I know what you mean. I'm pulled, disoriented, discombobulated and disquieted. One part says one thing, another part says something different." Everybody wants to change, but there is something in you that resists. We can call it this; we can call it that. I can say it takes a New kind of revolutionary Intelligence to understand what's going on. Could be true, could be true. We could talk about it forever.

 What if, way back in the tenth grade as you were snoozing in biology class, the teacher inadvertently explained everything to you? The teacher didn't know it, of course, even though the information is based on "what" takes place in the human organism. That is an area fairly well understood in the City; I am not disputing it. What if that's where the answer is? "Yeah, but what about the artistic human endeavors -- the human will to do better?" You mean, to do something else? "Yeah, but do better." You mean, to scratch. "Yeah, but to go to the stars, establish a lunar colony..."

 When there were other descriptions available, why did I ever make up the idea of the E/C Gate? What did that mean -- the "Exciting/Calming" Gate through which the human nervous system takes in (or does not take in) perceptions? It sounded like that map was describing "what's going on." Right? What if it was describing WHY? No, couldn't be...

 I could ask one further question: Is it possible that human intelligence could be a part of some symbiotic relationship?

 At times I know you feel like you are close to being able to skate off the edge and be rid of all the conflicts, regrets, and fears. Are you sure? I'm not saying you can't. Are you sure that you can just skate off the edge and not know what happened? Are you going to do that through me as your agent? Would you rather look inside and see what you are? That is, not philosophically, spiritually, or theoretically. You're just like everybody else.

 What if everything humanity does -- music, art, philosophy, warfare -- is just coat upon coat of paint on a wall? Since the first thought, everybody's been painting the same wall over and over and over. I don't mean this is right or wrong. What if "The Answer" is one sentence, and it's real, real, real blood-and-gutsy?

 That makes you want to...what? Think about it. Why have I repeatedly said that you would be better off if you don't tell yourself what you're doing? How can that be? What are you going to hide from yourself? And yet it does seem important. You know what you're going to do anyway; yet I told you, just don't say the words. Partners are partners, right? Why on earth would you be better off not telling yourself what you were doing?

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