What comes to mind

Sometimes I wonder where ideas come from. I have good ideas from time to time, but I don't tell my brain to think them, they generally just come out. Tonight I caught an idea in the act, I saw it happen. Here is the story.

It was late, and I was coming back to bed after going to the bathroom. I was trying to be quiet for Anna's sake, but I've always been bad at being quiet. I tried my hardest to shut the door quietly as I came in the room. I turned the handle to one side, so the latch wouldn't catch. I closed it slowly without slamming and then carefully released the handle so the latch would fall in place with none the wiser. But then the door made a sound despite my careful actions.

That sound has come before, and I never knew why. But in that instance I saw a vision. My minds eye imagined the latch, too small for the hole in the door jamb. When I turned the handle, and the latch fell back in place it wasn't up against the side of the strike plate. There was a gap, and the door is on an angle (we live in an old apartment), so it swings under the weight of gravity. That means the door 'fell', so to speak, until the edge of the latch met the edge of the strike plate. The falling made a noise. Eureka!

OK, admittedly, this was not the most amazing discovery. But it was a discovery, and I wasn't the one who made it; my brain told me about it. I know that sounds weird, but bear with me here.

There was some part of my unconscious that must have been thinking about this problem idly in the background for the last few years. Eventually, it had figured it out. It didn't bother me with the solution right after it solved the problem. Instead it waited, waited for the sound to happen again. When, eventually, my auditory brain sent the signal of the door slam, noise this part of my brain spoke up. It said 'hey visual cortex try running this simulation'. And the visual cortex filled my brain with the image of a latch falling against a slot and then I knew what had happened.

And there you have it, a thought caught in the act. I wonder where they come from? What are they up to before they jump on into our conscience for their big eureka moment? Can we explore our brain to find these forming thoughts? Maybe, but its too much to think about now. I have to get back to bed.

1 comment:

margaretlouise said...

I have to say something about it "clicked" for you-- maybe it was a moment where different sets of recallable understanding (how a door works, your apartment's particularities, how to try to be quiet) converged for the first time consciously? I "come up with" ideas all the time in ways that feel like revelation, and in ways I wouldn't be able to come up with if I sat down and tried to think the things--I try to understand this as percolation, and FWIW it usually happens when I'm "musing": I've set the agenda or I'm thinking about a particular set of things, but either am not totally thinking about it (e.g. showering), or I'm actually more consciously focused on something else (e.g. the literal words or spatial relationships that I've externalized onto a white board). So I'm not sure I'm adding much, but just wanted to drop a note that I can totally relate, and I do think it's something to do with semi-conscious thought. I think our brains are probably constantly trying out different iterations and connections subconsciously, and when it's recognizable as sense, it comes to the surface (sometimes)?