Two Random Thoughts

Here are two random thoughts I've had in the past 24 hours that I thought I'd share with you.

1. How amazing is the human brain and its processing power? I was at the grocery store yesterday and had to decide on a body wash for myself. So I stood there smelling each one. It seemed pretty straightforward, right? But in the background, I was also calculating overall price, looking at price per ounce, comparing moisturizing vs every other thing body washes are supposed to do, and then filtering them all through my bullshit meter to get rid of what seemed like marketing (which is most of it).

Of course, scent was the main factor, but all the rest of that was happening as well. Not to mention all the other things that were happening. I was aware of the woman behind me stocking the shelves and self-conscious of my behavior around her, I was paying attention to everyone else shopping nearby, I was following the unwritten rules for society, etc. AND, I was doing a whole bunch of autonomic functions, everything from keeping my heart beating and my lungs moving in and out, to balancing on two feet (which needs constant micro corrections).

Amazing, huh? And we do this effortlessly, really. It's mostly automatic. The only part that's noticeable is smelling each soap and deciding if I like it or not, then calculating the rank in which I like them.

And then, I handle the transaction and interaction with the cashier and drive home! Truly astonishing, isn't it? And we take it all for granted. Which is how it should be.

I was listening to the Skeptic's Guide awhile ago and they had a Science or Fiction item (if I recall correctly) that people are actually remembering less now that we have Google (and other search engines, etc). And it's true, we don't have to remember things like we used to. I for one don't remember anyone's phone numbers anymore. But I do remember my mom's because I learned it before I had a phone that remembered for me. I remember some numbers from when I was a kid, like my grandmother's old number, but nothing current.

The thing is, we're not stupider. In fact, IQ has been rising each decade by a small amount, overall. We just use our minds differently. Now we are masters at finding information, and making sure we can find it again when we need it. So we are better Googlers, basically.

I've also noticed that we all seem to still hold vast amounts of data on what we are passionate about. My husband Butch can rattle off huge amounts of stats on cars, for example. He knows so much about them. He remembers it all effortlessly. But there are other things that don't interest him at all and it won't get saved in his memory. We're all like that. My eyes cross when he starts talking about engine size and horsepower - and I don't remember hardly any of it later, but if I'm walking outside, I somehow know different plants and insects that I didn't even realize I had saved in my mind.

It's just fantastic. Imagine what things will be like in 20 years, or 100, or 1,000!

2. I was reading a book last night and it sparked a thought that I had to write down. Do we need language to think deeply? I think we do. For instance, does increased language help people express themselves more? It would seem so. But does it also help you express yourself to yourself? If you don't have words to describe a feeling or a thought, how can you process that thought? Don't you need some form of language?

I guess it matters on what the thoughts are. If they are about physics, I think you need a way to process your thoughts concretely, through math and language. But if it's a feeling, of course we feel it even if we can't explain it. But are we better served by being able to have words to express it? So if you have a simple language with only a few words to express happiness, for example, you'd still feel deeply, but you wouldn't be able to articulate to yourself or others the depth of your happiness.

But you can express yourself with art (is that also a form of language and communication though?)

And if you grow up in a culture with no math, like some cultures in the Amazon, you would never contemplate physics, at least not like Stephen Hawking does. Right? Or if you did, you wouldn't have any way to share it.

So language is extremely important. Of course, you don't need me to tell you that, I guess. But what about how we express ourselves over time, and how language evolves. It seems that some people use more of it and are growing and expanding, like Stephen Hawking or Neil deGrasse Tyson, for example. While other people seem to want to use less language, shorten words, add new words that are lazier, write in shorthand and text speak.

Does it matter? I don't know. These are just thoughts I wanted to share with you. What do you think?


  1. Good stuff, Neece. Thinking about thinking makes you think.

    I keep wondering if there are ever times when I'm not thinking in English (the only language I know). I wish I could catch myself not thinking in English, but it's like trying to catch your reflection in the mirror looking somewhere other than directly back into your eyes.

  2. ‘But you can express yourself with art (is that also a form of language and communication though?)’

    Absolutely. I believe every form of communication is a language. Art is a language that can be felt and each piece can mean different things to different people. The same is true for music. Any form of creating that affects our senses is an attempt at some level to reach, touch, and transform others and the artist herself. And language is an art form. Look at what you have written. Look at what you have discovered!

    Our myriad ways and uses of language show a natural progression. Some of us absorb new structures of language in our search for information and explanations. Others, younger, just starting out with both brains and bodies spinning too fast to sit still, create new ways of streamlining and obfuscating their communications to remake it more to their own sensibilities. It’s fun - and it’s theirs. They trash verbiage that to them carries no weight of history or emotion and create new meanings on the fly.

    Texting is an excellent example. (Hah! I just had to add the word texting to my dictionary to take away that nasty accusing little red scribble under the word.) Another example of my own personal growth in language - I’m constantly teaching my old computer new tricks. So your remark- ‘…others seem to want to use less language, shorten words, add new words that are lazier…’ - is one that has been echoed through time and will continue to be as long as the newest generation tinkers, tries, and finally fashions its own wings. Most will grow in time, find use and beauty in language; outstrip us in its use, (as they should) as each generation always has.

  3. Thanks very much, Merrilee, most excellent! :D