Literally Thoughtless

NPCs genuinely don’t have a life of the mind. When you find yourself asking someone the question “what were you thinking?” keep in mind that one of the legitimate possibilities is “literally nothing”.

I think I’m very different from most people because of one main thing. I never thought with language. Ever. I moved to Canada when I was 2 from Asia, and have been basically been around English speakers my whole life. I’m in my twenties now and I can speak it relatively well, and can understand every single word. However, growing up, I never ever thought with language. Not once did I ever think something in my mind with words like “What are my friends doing right now?” to planning things like “I’m going to do my homework right after watching this show.” I went through elementary school like this, I went through Highschool like this, I went through University like this…and I couldnt help but feel something was off about me that I couldnt put my hand on. Just last year, I had a straight up revalation, ephiphany….and this is hard to explain…but the best way that I can put it is that…I figured out that I SHOULD be thinking in language. So all of a sudden, I made a conscious effort to think things through with language. I spent a years time refining this new “skill” and it has COMPLETELY, and utterly changed my perception, my mental capabilities, and to be frank, my life. I can suddenly describe my emotions which was so insanely confusing to me before…. Since I now have this new “skill” I can only describe my past life as ….”Mindless”…”empty”…..”soul-less”….

Sadly, it appears that he is very far from alone in this regard. Consider the anecdote where half the class genuinely refuses to believe the other half’s insistence that one can think in words. Or this anecdote, which explains why memes and movies are inordinately influential:

I almost never think in language unless I actively try to, like when reading or when prompted. The flip side is I have a very vivid imagination. I never need to think things out explicitly in words because I think in visual/spatial concepts. For many years I thought the idea that people have “internal monologues” was a literary device. I didn’t think anyone actually thought in words all the time, and frankly the idea still seems weird to me.

This may sound crazy, but both science and observation make it clear that unconscious brain activity precedes conscious thought. Even my martial arts sensei used to tell us to stop thinking and trust our muscle memory, because the process of observe-decide-act was much slower than the process of react-as-trained. Often, when I was sparring at my best, I had no idea what I or my opponent were doing at the time, and we’d have to reconstruct what had happened by discussing the round afterward.

The apparent connection between wordlessness and abstract visual/spatial thinking makes me wonder if my heightened ability to see the logical – or illogical – patterns in texts may stem in part from my severe limitations with regards to spatial relations. The multilingual aspect is also intriguing, as the ability to speak a language is said to correlate highly with the unconscious use of it in one’s internal monologue as well as in one’s dreams. My high school German teacher used to tell us that you knew you had reached a comfortable conversational level in a language once you began dreaming in it, and I have found that to be true.

For example, what was once a solid conversational ability in Japanese has degraded to virtually nothing after 34 years of not speaking or hearing it. And yet, not long after I started listening to Babymetal, I was surprised to occasionally find myself making mental observations with Japanese phrases I’d regularly utilized while living in Sagamihara. The mind is truly a strange and wonderful thing.

But regardless, the extent of this wordless interior life amongst the general population underlines the importance of rhetoric, particularly visual rhetoric, as well as the strict limitations on the utility of dialectic.