On electricity firing in the void (or, what my mind does when I’m alone)

The mind is a wild thing. Bundles of electrons. A collection of synapses firing back and forth, little electric pulses that combine to form thoughts. Spinning out across my frontal lobe, I feel happiness and sadness, not as some mechanical feat of engineering, not as emotion, but as pure electricity. Electricity in motion as this soft sludgy gray matter works away to create the sense of being.

So how do we take this seemingly abstract collection of ‘stuff’ and form emotion from it? Where does this happiness or sadness, or the constant wild fluctuation between the two poles emerge? How do I interpret someone’s ‘external’ words within my own ‘internal’ mind and react/interact/inter-react with them to cause emotion? Without extended studies in neuroscience (who even knows where to begin?), surely this is beyond the scope of my weak human understanding.

How wild. How free. This idea that all that we do and feel and experience is merely electricity firing in the void.

I’ve been pulled kicking and screaming into a ritual where I read a passage from the Daily Stoic. Thankfully the book is designed with the western world’s thirty second attention span in mind. Each page a separate day. Each day a single thought. Each single thought distilled in fifty words or less.

I read the passage. Think about it for a couple of seconds. Generally dismiss it entirely and move on with my day.

Nevertheless, I find some ideas tick tick tick in the back of mind, nudging their way to the surface and coming up in casual conversation. This is my most recent thought bubble.

Marcus Aurelius: If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it.” 

Seneca: “Life is divided into three parts: past, present, and future. Of these, the present is brief, the future doubtful, the past certain. For this last is the category over which fortune no longer has control, and which cannot be brought back under anyone’s power.”

Epictetus: “The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control.”

So if I’ve had a past, or a present, I can take my perception of my experiences and warp it to my will. Bend and mould it to the shape I want and fling it to the seething ocean below. Is this not man’s greatest achievement? History re-written by the victors, and my mind re-writing my past over and over, synapses firing in the void to create meaning where meaning wasn’t intended and give life to the gremlins that dwell in the basement.

How wild.

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