Explaining Myself

For some reason people who don’t know me very well think that I’m an organized person both in thought and in action.  My apartment must be clean and tidy.  My filing cabinets must be filled with well labeled folders whose contents are accessible within mere seconds should I need them.  Yet what these people see is only the outer manifestation of an inner chaos.  But how can chaos give way to the appearance of organization?  Let me explain.

I am a pack rat in the truest sense.  I collect words.  I collect thoughts.  I collect feelings and memories.  I discard nothing, at least not with intent.  On my computer I have every document I’ve ever saved since I was in 5th grade.  My physical surroundings are no different.  Throughout my bedroom books lie in thick disorganized stacks.  Others rest neatly on shelves, yet without any discernible system of classification by author or discipline. 

My outer and inner worlds are essentially the same.  In my mind conflicting ideas float around and clash continually.  No one idea is able to claim any permanent victory over the rest.  These ideas play off of each other and merge and recombine like DNA molecules that lack an overall blueprint, so that the general appearance is of chaos and confusion.  Out of this disordered morass of contradictory and competing thoughts and beliefs a few particles of clarity percolate to the surface.  It’s as if through incessant recombination some ideas were able to glom onto others that are compatible, thereby forming the beginnings of a system of thought that can be applied to the outside world.  Yet most of what is in my head remains mere noise that threatens to destroy the conceptual edifices that have taken so long to erect. 

Example: for much of my childhood I grappled with the task of organizing and defining my personal philosophical system.  I had a vague sense of direction throughout, but I lacked a complete system that I could articulate and formalize.  All I had were a lot of questions, many more possible answers, and an ineffable feeling about the world and my place in it that I couldn’t convey to others.  It wasn’t until high school that my thoughts coalesced so that I could work out an organized framework that I might convey to the outside world.  This framework that I had worked so hard (or waited so long—I don’t know if it’s accurate to call the process “work”) to form was far from solidified.  It would undergo continued modification and retooling, but the core of my outlook on the world was there, and finally I understood it. 

How I came to my philosophical outlook is an extreme case, but a similar process is in motion on a smaller scale with nearly every conclusion or claim that I make.  When I say that a mountain is beautiful, I say so not only out of a spontaneous sense of awe that is unavoidable when I’m in the presence of something so immense.  I apply a notion of beauty that I have formed over twenty-seven years.  It is a notion that has been informed by science, literature, philosophy, the arts, pop culture, experiences with friends and family and strangers.  Everything I’ve come into contact with, whether frivolous or serious, has played a part in my definition of beauty. 

 Yes, the mountain is beautiful because it is enormous and is covered with bright white snow and threatens to tear the sky in two with its jagged ridges.  But more than anything it is beautiful because it is a visible record of the immense past.  It speaks of earthquakes and uplifting events, ice ages, and rivers and streams cutting through the land to form deep canyons.  It is a record of extinction events and the rise of new species to fill niches that come and go as the mountain changes in character.  Particles of the mountain exist in all of the oceans of the world and in fertile valleys that yield crops which are essential to our survival.  The mountain represents ubiquity and interconnectedness.  Such beauty exists in all things, but not always so immediately as in a majestic mountain. 

Such is my thought process for a lot of things, not just beauty, which I grant is actually quite a heavy philosophical theme.  What I’m trying to convey is that even simple decisions like how to engage in small talk can be just as involved as determining what constitutes beauty.  I’m selectively methodical and meticulous, not because I’m a master of organization, but because it’s all I can do to overcome my intrinsic sense of confusion.

About atomsofthought
Photographer. Traveler. Writer. Reader.

10 Responses to Explaining Myself

  1. jolieaparis says:

    Thank you so much for this post – the more I see the more I realise that everything is beautiful and I yearn to show everyone else the world that I see. It’s so nice to see that someone else is looking on it with similar eyes.

  2. Steve Bromley says:

    I’ve always loved this image of Yosemite. It fits well with the theme of your article.

  3. skippingstones says:

    1. What would a conversation with you be like if you just let go? I mean, if you did not put in the effort to organize your immediate thoughts, feelings, observations, all the things that may be going through your mind at that moment?

    2. To clarify: you do not at this moment have a full, defined, solid idea of what Beauty is because (basically) you are still living. Which is to say, you are still capable of: viewing other mountains, viewing this one in a new way, gaining new insight from another person’s point of view of this or other mountains, reading/hearing a different interpretation of what beauty is, etc. To further clarify, this applies to other thought processes, ideas, philosophies you have. That seems about right to me.

    3. I like how you see the mountain. I sometimes think about just the earth I’m walking on – was it here in this same spot all along, have native americans or dinosaurs walked on these same particles, was it uncovered as the ages have past and I’m walking on “new” dirt that has not seen the light of day for millions of years until this very moment, has it been around the world and just finally ended up here?

    4. I don’t know anyone who grappled with their personal philosophical system in college, much less before high school. I said you were more smarter than me and I was right.

    5. It seems to me that someone who thinks in an advanced way would have a lot going on in their mind, and it’s not surprising that there would be a lot of jostling for position in there.

    6. Also (like I told you somewhere on here, about having a hard time narrowing down a simple direction for an employee), when you think widely – multiple possibilities, and multiple possibilities opened up by each of the first set of possibilities, you’re bound to have to do some quality control before you convey what you’re thinking to the outside world.

    • 1. Haha, as with most people, I would make almost no sense if I didn’t organize my thoughts before expressing them. On the other hand, if I didn’t put any effort into forming a narrative out of the chaos (which is in all of us, as psychology has shown pretty well), maybe my thoughts and emotions would aggregate into simple words like “pain”, “hunger”, “joy”, “confusion”. I was just thinking today about posting something about how little I say about most things compared to when I was younger, when I thought I could figure out anything with enough words. 🙂

      You know, this calls to mind my experiences coming out of surgeries (I’ve had four on my knees, for starters), when I was still feeling the effects of the anesthesia and wasn’t aware of what I was saying. Usually I talk about simple, happy memories and I go on and on without any care for how unmanly I sound. Twice I’ve come come out of surgery and talked about going with my sister to a butterfly garden in Houston. One of these times a buddy of mine was with me. He got quite a kick out of my rambling.

      That generally I don’t just blurt out how much fun I had with my sister at a butterfly garden reveals the huge size of the flitering operation my brain goes through before producing words. Turns out the process of grafting a narrative onto reality, taking into account what other people expect of you, what sounds sane, etc. is a lot of work!

      3. I like the way you think about the world.

      4. I’m pretty sure I’m not smarter than you. I think what we grapple with as kids has a lot to do with a combination of near-innate temperament and the stimuli we receive when we’re young. In other words, I blame biology and my parents. 😉

  4. anda says:

    ah, yes. Ubiquity and interconnectedness. yes!

  5. Barb Bromley says:

    How often I’ve wished my mind was simple so life could be more relaxing. I look at all of these art books that offer painting/drawing ideas and wonder why they sell. I have hundreds of ideas fighting for fruition. This very minute I’m working on 10 different pieces: a drawing of my mother in law & daughter, a painting of my favorite dog, Daisy, a dog on the beach, my grandson looking delighted, my mom & grandson, a kestrel, a child running through a fountain, a pelican floating on the ocean, my niece in wedding attire, etc…. I also use so many different media. It gets exhausting keeping up with myself. Ah how nice it would be to have “just one thing” to be inspired by and focused on. Still if that were the way my mind worked, I wouldn’t be a good teacher. My restless mind and passion for learning helps all of my students.

    Your way with words connects with so many and expresses depth and deep thought which can be so difficult and exhausting, but so helpful to others.

  6. mastadave2999 says:

    deff can relate. thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: