Chapter 10. Thinking

Without even trying

People think without even trying. With all that thinking, you’d think our problems would be solved.

If everyone did it

If everyone were always sharing no one would have space for thinking. The question is whether thinking or sharing brings the greater joy.

What is it?

Other than knowing there are voices, sounds, and images in my head, ever changing, what is it? We might as well ask what is consciousness and what are ideas? Even though computers are universal machines, one definition of intelligence is whatever computers cannot have. One definition of thinking is however you’re aware and whatever you imagine without regard to purpose. Others, however, say that thinking, to be thinking, has to have a goal, but what sense is that when anything can be a goal?


When you’re asleep, do you think, even though you don’t know it, or is being conscious of it what it’s about? Let’s say consciousness of thinking is necessary for thought. You don’t think in deep sleep, or when you’re under general anesthesia. How then is thinking different from consciousness? Life is a series of creative acts, deciding what to eat or how to say what should be said. Otherwise, it takes no thought to go through the motions. The key may be in the difference between autonomic thought processes and deliberate processes in which you fashion something useful or fun or just be mindful.

A blank sheet

If a blank sheet of paper represented a state without thought, then thoughts would not be like photons that make it bright. Thoughts would not be like millions of things that could be written or could be drawn or could be imagined, but would be something else comforting or frightening and not for you to say.


A little experiment can make it clear that you can train yourself; however, the efficacy of thought alone to influence anything else, animate or inanimate, is imaginary. Puzzle over a koan long enough and you’ll train yourself to think, but also to respect the limits of thinking.