Crosswords

Somewhere back when the first Bush was in office and for some reason I cared when the topic was brought up, I was in high school. (A brief aside: to say that I'm apathetic toward politics right now/ever misses the point. I'm doing my best not to derail this guided train of consciousness, but just got really close to verbally dumping my slightly unorthodox but completely reasonable views on government….and there's a lot there. Especially since completely reasonable view are never simple, complete, or reasonable).

But back to what I didn't think was that awkward phase of my life called high school. Back to the parts that I still remember. And back to this class I had to take for the IB Diploma called Theory of Knowledge (TOK). Our teacher was one of the more normal teachers at the school who had the mundane task of teaching a class about thinking about thinking. Which is a pretty broad subject that spans everything from philosophy to politics to evolution to Donnie Darko. And yes, we did watch Donnie Darko.

For some reason I've found myself drawn to one of the arguments in the class that "smelled" wrong. You know these points in an argument, not only do you realize you're about to lose, you realize you're about to lose because you can't find the hole in the logic/evidence/whatever because you couldn't think on your feet fast enough. As in, their point is completely wrong, and you know it right away, but can't come up with the counterpoint. After fumbling with weak counterpoints and fallacies, you give up, only to realize, right after the person's left, what the hole was. And you spend the next day thinking about how wrong they were and how right you are, constructing your own titanic of a counterpoint. I say titanic because if you ever talk about it again (which you probably won't because you'll forget before the next day), they quickly proceed to find another hole in your argument, and you're sunk.

The topic of the day was focusing about thought and consciousness, in particular what is it, do all humans have it, do animals have it, does it make us human, etc. And somewhere in the middle of this, an example (the bright red flashing lights and warning sirens should have been going absolutely berserk) was brought up. At this point in the conversation we were discussing whether a generic human conscious exists (think of it, as like a giant pool of thought from which we all drink thoughts. Or don't. Actually, please don't): as in almost all humans think similarly/have the same basic instincts, etc., so doesn't it make sense if we shared some thread of current thought subconsciously? I want to say some famous philosopher, like Freud or Neitzcshe cemented the idea in one of their works. The example, in favor of this point, was an experiment that was run a while back involving crosswords. Basically, crossword experts on the East & West Coast were timed doing crosswords. All the test subjects received the same crossword at the same time, and time was started at the same time. The results were startling: everybody finished in about the same time. The teacher then stated that this was an example of having a universal conscious: how else would they have come up with the same solutions at the same time?

How, indeed?

Well, in retrospect it's actually obvious. A crossword is a skill that you have to practice to get good at. There are easy, hard, and I can't even get a word right levels of crossword difficulty (to name a few). Experts have spent thousands of hours solving them (probably the same ones), so even they can get the absurdly hard crosswords. If you switch from thinking about a crossword as some abstract mental task to some actual tangible individual activity (such as running), the study results makes complete sense: if you took the world's 6 best 200 M runners and started at the exact same universal time (in 3 different time zones), would they all run about the same time? Yes! The experiment proves nothing about a potential 'universal' conscious. When me and my little bro went through a competitive phase trying to beat each other doing sodukos on a long road trip, we quickly discovered that there were levels within the "easy-medium-hard" sodukos. Trying to set & break record on the "medium" levels was interesting because we'd almost always get the same time. On the hard levels, we discovered that there were sub levels of "hard," and getting an easy "hard" meant that you'd destroy the previous record, but otherwise you'd stay in the same range.

So what was my point? I'm not sure. I've just always kept the example in the back of my head of some study that "proves" a point. To this day I'm not sure whether my teacher came to the conclusion (likely, so that she could further a dying argument) or whether the researchers did (a little less likely, they'd have to be pretty dumb to completely ignore the millions of other obvious reasons out there). While you can't always trust what you read/hear, especially when your arguing, listen to that bad smell. Because it's almost always right.

Maybe that's the best argument for a societal conscious.

If I'm leaving you with a thought like that, it means I'm getting tired (my sore lower back is a great reminder of how bad my moguls form is). Here's to sitting on a plane/airport for 12+ hours tomorrow! (& for the record, that's not a complaint, I'm heading to Hawa'ii). Which would be perfect if it also had powder. Peace!

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