Gurdjieff, the Russian philosopher who believed he operated at a higher level than other people and taught his followers how to get there, had a technique he called “self-remembering.” You set an alarm to go off randomly, so that it “wakes you up” out of your familiar automatic state, and you observe yourself. This, supposedly, takes you from the deterministic to the self-determined world.
A friend and I once agreed to do this, but I went first, and my thoughts were amazingly boring. Perhaps as a result, she never reciprocated.
Now they’re studying this, as a recent article* in the Times tells us:
Psychologists have many ways to get inside our heads: they can give us questionnaires, track our eyes, time how long we take to respond to cues and measure the blood flow to our brains. But how close can these methods get to the texture of our inner lives?
According to the article, a psychologist named Russell Hurlburt took random samples of what a very agreeable subject was thinking by fitting her up with a beeper. When it went off, she recorded her thoughts – just like me. When Dr. Hurlburt studied himself, years later, he found out he doesn’t think in words or images, but in something he calls “unsymbolized thinking,” which is probably why he’s able to get his name in the New York Times.
All of this is a preamble, believe it or not. The other day I caught myself in a profound state of mind thinking about the bottle of shampoo I found in the shower at my gym, and about how to insert polls into blogs, and so here you go:
Results (if there are any) to follow later, maybe.
*I had a vague memory of linking to this article once before, and I found my post (which it turns out I wrote on Christmas) by searching for “ham sandwich.” This self-remembering can be so prosaic.