Just Saying The Words

It’s always been my understanding that as a spiritual person, you think of God all the time and constantly be grateful. I do my best to live that way, not just because we’re supposed to but because the rewards are self evident. We can communicate directly with God and do, though sometimes I wonder if I’m just saying the words and not really doing anything. Like playing music one note at a time without producing that effect that music has, it would be just notes. Or like an attempted magic spell where the words come out and nothing else happens. A cause with no effect. I can sit there repeating the mantra, “I am grateful” but does that mean I actually am?

There is no way to know how much our thoughts and actions metaphysically control events in the real world. But if they do, if the act of focusing on an idea serves as a spiritual communion and impacts life, there’s so many questions. What controls how effective it is? Is there a better time of day? Of year? Can some Tuesday afternoon be as sacred as your faith’s holiest day of the year? Does where you are matter? Can a car or park bench or wilderness provide a link to God like a synagogue? Alone or with others? Everyone has their own preference and feeling about what works for them. But none of us can ever know how effective any particular thought is.

Exploring this idea deeper leads to questions of what happens in our minds that defines what makes us human. Regular readers know my affinity for Douglas Hofstadter, whose works explore this very idea on a conceptual level in the most clever of ways. In his book “I Am A Strange Loop”, he discusses the ways that brain structures such like amino acids and synapses can form into abstract concepts like dogs or memes or a sense of humor. Like many sciences this can be looked at from a micro or macro level, but there is always some threshold transition where the behavior or the small stuff adds up to determine the behavior of the big stuff. One of the metaphors Hofstadter uses is called the careenium, an open environment like a pool table where many tiny marbles called “sims” fly about and bash into each other, sometimes bouncing off and sometimes clustering into “simmballs.” Forgiving the pun, we can see how these symbols can develop to the point where they become self-referential, and this is our strange loop.

The connection between these ideas to me is the threshold – the point where the loop forms and consciousness happens. Is there a similar tipping point for thought, where it crosses the threshold of effect? This is not something we’re likely to find out in this lifetime, and once again everyone has their own understanding and feelings about how this works. Everyone knows what it’s like to feel below the threshold, like you’re just saying the words. But there’s not really such thing as words, only ideas, and ideas always have meaning.

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