Sustained Incoherence

Some years ago now the brilliant physicist David Bohm, who studied with Einstein, had this to say about human thought:

Thought doesn't know it is doing something and then it struggles against what it is doing. It doesn't want to know that it is doing it. And thought struggles against the results, trying to avoid those unpleasant results while keeping on with that way of thinking. That is what I call "sustained incoherence."

If you've been wondering lately what's going on in Washington, the country as a whole, and the rest of the world, sustained incoherence based on the way human thought operates, should give you some clarity. Greece presently is perhaps the most glaring example of the phenomenon.

On a larger scale, the "Arab Spring" movements and the state of civil disorder which has resulted, exemplifies sustained incoherence. And now, the 99 percent movement here has the same problem. And look at the transcripts of Republican debates and the speeches on the floors of Congress and the same thing is happening.

What brings this incoherence into sharp focus is the more structured and somewhat clearer coherence of print media and television commentary, at least where ordered conversation is the standard. As consumers of news and opinion, we have the chance to see the difference between how governments and mobs function as opposed to most media coverage of both. But of course, the coverage is exactly that; it covers over, giving us false coherence.

Why is this incoherence happening? At least one answer, I believe, is the explosive and random increase of information technology flooding the mainstream cultures of the world. The resulting chaotic, unscripted data is too much for the more slowly evolving human brain to process. We can't compute and we certainly cannot think clearly about any of it.

Bohm's odd sounding analysis of how thought functions deserves a careful reading. If we can watch in quiet moments our own thinking, we might be able to learn how incoherent thought is running the show and how we are too often victims of our own mental wanderings. Emerson once said, "Ask a man to study himself and he can't think of anything less interesting." He went on to say, however, that nothing is more important.

A few quiet moments in the day, even a few minutes of meditation or reflection would certainly help the observer in the mind gain some mastery over the tsunami of data which threatens to bury us.