Indiscriminate Thinking

There are days that I ache to engage in long philosophical conversations with someone whose sensitivities parallel mine, but whose perspectives on life may deviate from mine. Someone whose life experiences may have shaped a different world-view. I want to have discussions that take unexpected twists and turns; conversations that can provide both insights and entertainment for hours at a time. The conversations may be intense, but not dead-serious. We tend to take ourselves too seriously; I want these discussions to be serious, but willing to stray into humor. Slapstick humor, on rare occasion. And these conversations might be capped off with celebratory toasts; I with a glass of sparkling water, my conversationalist partner with wine or whiskey or coffee or a shot of tequila. Or a few draws from a vape pen. Or whatever. The point is to “toast” the enjoyment of thought and conversation. The outcome of these discussions may have no intrinsic value; no value to humanity in the larger sense. Except, of course, helping participants realize the immeasurable value of human engagement.

Despite my desire to engage, the strength of my desire to disengage can be just as great. The craving for distance, privacy, isolation, seclusion—that powerful urge to be utterly alone—competes head-to-head with the more social need. Sometimes, one is stronger than the other. Sometimes they balance one another.

I understand the conflicting emotions that cause me to vacillate between the desire for communication and the longing to be alone with my thoughts. But I wonder whether others share the way my thoughts and my wishes tendency to cling to a pendulum of interests and emotions? The idea of getting into others’ minds intrigues me. I wish I could experience the way other people think. The way they experience the world around them. Every time I think of “getting into someone else’s head,” I think of a film I saw many years ago on PBS. I’ve written about it more than once before. Here’s what I said about it, roughly ten years ago:

“…I was enamored of a film called Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, which starred Raúl Julia in the character of Aram Fingal, a programmer for NoviCorp, a global corporation that shared control of the dystopian society that had taken control of the world. Fingal, who had broken the corporate rules by watching a film (Casa Blanca; the arts had been banned), was punished and rehabilitated by having his mind transferred (“doppeled”) to an aging ape for a time. The plot line is long and somewhat convoluted (and I don’t recall it entirely), but this one element of the film, doppeling, intrigued me.”

The idea of doppeling into the mind of other people appeals to me. I would like to see and analyze the world through the eyes and minds of people who are close to me. And I have a similar interest in knowing, first-hand, how people who I find offensive see the world. Getting into another person’s mind has the potential to be embarrassing, though. What if, for example, I discovered while inside a woman friend’s head that she had romantic feelings for me? Or, to the contrary, what if I found that someone I thought was a friend considered me a deadly dull bore…or worse, loathed me intensely? It could be even worse: I could stumble upon a person’s memories of—or plans for—committing a crime.

In spite of my interest and willingness to get inside someone else’s head, I would mightily resist someone else getting inside mine. There’s too much up there I do not want others to know. Indiscriminate exposure of my thoughts might put me at risk for arrest by the Thought Police. I cannot justify keeping my thoughts private if I insist on getting into others’ heads, so I suppose I should let the fantasy of doppeling just quietly disappear into the ether.


The 5:00 a.m. temperature outdoors was a brisk 28°F in Hot Springs Village; it is expected to climb to 46°F. Reykjavik, Iceland is considerably warmer at the moment, at 45°F. The high for the day in that far-off fantasy-land will reach 48°F, if the Weather Network forecast is correct.

Only a few years ago, I would have been unable to check local temperatures from the comfort of my desk. And I would not have had easy and immediate access to weather data and predictions for cities around the globe. The degree to which people have adjusted—and are adjusting—to the lightning speed of technological change varies, but the rapidity of adjustment correlates closely with age. I think there is a close relationship between the speed with which people learn a new language and the speed with which they learn to understand and apply new technologies. But my thinking may be wrong.  I suspect I could rather quickly either verify or debunk my theory if I were inclined to do the research. At the moment, though, the payoff for doing the research is not sufficiently high to merit the expenditure of my energy.

Maybe that concept applies to the levels of success I (and others) experience in learning language and technology, too. For young people, learning languages and technologies can be assumed to have a much longer pay-out than do those acquisitions for much older people. The older one gets, the shorter the time-frame available to put new knowledge and/or abilities to use. The investments of time and energy (which generally increase with age) required to learn new languages and new technologies provides ample pay-back to young people because they can apply those new abilities over a longer period of time than can older people. Whether we acknowledge it or not, perhaps older people instinctively restrict the expenditure of effort to learn new things in order to balance the investment with the return they expect from it.

Consider that a 20-year-old may need to spend two intense years to become semi-fluent in German and a 60-year-old must spend three intense years to achieve the same result. If the 20-year-old lives to age 80, his two-year investment equates to three percent of his total life-span. if the 60-year-old lives to age 80, his three year investment equates to fifteen percent of his remaining life span. What does this tell us? It tells me nothing I can easily explain or express. Mathematics, an utterly objective endeavor, may not provide the best measure of subjective emotional value; assuming, of course, one considers the value of life experience a subjective matter.


My right shoulder aches. When I move my arm in certain ways, the ache intensifies into a sharper, more intense pain. The pain diminishes within a minute or so after I return my shoulder to a better position. Motrin has become a daily thing, along with what seems like a thousand other pills and capsules. I detest having to take so damn many medications. I am tempted to simply stop taking them to see whether my life experience changes in any measurable way. I sometimes question the legitimacy of prescriptions in response to medical complaints. Drugs are too easy. Changes in one’s lifestyle are more difficult, though arguably much more effective. I can talk a good game, but I tend not to practice what I preach. I, who wish I could receive an injection that would cure me of all my ills, rather than adjust my habits in pursuit of the same outcome.


I’ve written too much and said too little. I will stop now. It’s time.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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