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Jenn Dodwell's picture

Paying attention to "paying attention to paying attention"....

I agree that it's really cool to think about how our minds wander....all the time, and about how we have the most random chains of thoughts.  It's also interesting to think how difficult it can be to trace these chains of thoughts back to their origin.  I wonder if there is scientifically (whether it has been discovered or not) any cutoff for the amount of time that has to elapse before it becomes impossible to trace one's chain of thoughts back to its origin.  For example, it seems certain that there is no way to trace our chain of thoughts back to the moment we were born.  This of course, is the most extreme case.  But it also seems certain that we could never trace our chain of thoughts back as far as a month, a week, or even a whole day.  But what about a few hours?  Still seems pretty unlikely that we'd be able to sit down and remember every thought we had starting three hours ago.  But we all could probably agree that it is possible, if we think hard enough, to trace our chain of thought back a few minutes.  If there is a cutoff, it seems like it would be somewhere between a few minutes and less than an hour.

 Also, I agree with Elle Works that there appears to be no evolutionary significance to mind wandering. Why do we space out so much if it possibly would be more efficient if we did not?  Or would it?  Could mind-wandering, like resting our muscles, or sleeping, be a way to rest our brains temporarily so that we do not strain them?  Or is it some kind of odd way in which we process the "useful" material that we store in our heads? 

Also, when Elle Works said that there is no end to the places our minds can wander, it made me think--it seems that our brains are capable of realizing infinity in some way.  Infinity, though usually just an abstract idea, something that can never be fully achieved or realized in any concrete physical sense, and something that cannot be completely comprehended by us, suddenly becomes a bit clearer when we think of mind-wandering.  Intuitively it seems accurate to say that our minds are capable of an infinite number of thoughts (if thoughts can be numbered).  I'm wondering, therefore:

 -Is this accurate to say that our minds are in some way, capable of realizing infinity?

 -If so, does this shed any new light on the concept of infinity?

-Could the clarity of thought that I feel at the moment be just a mental mirage produced by the wanderings of my mind at the moment?

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