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Types of mental activity: dreaming, thinking, reading




   The mind is capable of different types of mental activity.  One 
   is the activity represented by such words as "dreaming", 
   "daydreaming", "fantasizing", "musing", "reminiscing, etc..  
   Another activity is logical in nature and is represented by 
   such words as "thinking", "cogitating", "reflecting", 
   "analyzing", etc..  It is the nature of dreaming to occupy 
   itself with things like mental imagery, sensation, feeling, 
   beauty, atmosphere, form, etc..  It is closely related to art 
   and music and probably represents the mind of the artist or 
   musician.  In contrast to the activity of thinking it is very 
   feeling, impression and imagination oriented.  Thinking is very 
   prosaic, unfeeling and unimaginative in its basic nature. 
   
   One reason why these two types of mental activity are of 
   interest to me is that when I was young (up to the age of 
   perhaps 13 or 14) my mind tended to be a "dreaming" type mind 
   in the extreme.  Now it is a "thinking" type mind in the 
   extreme.  When I was younger I tended to be of the opinion that 
   words were really of little value, that the really important 
   and deep things of life just can't be described with words.  I 
   felt this way because it really is difficult or impossible to 
   put things like sensation, feeling, beauty, music, etc. into 
   words (they are just apart from the world of words). 

   It is interesting to note how my mind happened to go from one 
   extreme to the other.  It happened in high school when I first 
   started encountering subjects like algebra, physics, chemistry 
   and other subjects in the fields of mathematics and physical 
   science that called for logical thought.  In order to do well 
   in them I discovered I had to suppress my inclination to dream.  
   As I applied myself to the study of mathematics, physics, etc. 
   the dreaming mind was gradually replaced by a thinking mind --- 
   a mind that was objective, emotionless, calculating, logical 
   and factual.  Now I never dream.  I think, figure, reflect, 
   analyze and consider but never drift off into real dreams and 
   fantasy.  I wouldn't be able to if I wanted to.  Something 
   prevents it.  It is as if I have no imagination anymore.

   There are other types of mental activity besides dreaming and 
   thinking.  One such activity is reading.

   The mind can perform only one of these mental activities at a 
   time.  It cannot perform two of the activities simultaneously.  
   If it is reading it cannot, at the same time, be dreaming.  If 
   it is reading it cannot, at the same time, be off engaged in 
   abstract thought and reflection.  Any thinking you do while you 
   are reading must be limited to the material you are reading.  
   You cannot allow your mind to wander off on a tangent.  One of 
   the big problems I had in my high school years was the tendency 
   for my mind to wander when I was reading.  This was especially 
   true in studying physics.  So many questions would occur to me 
   as I was reading in physics and my mind would tend to wander 
   off in pursuit of those questions.  In addition my mind had a 
   strong natural inclination toward either dreaming or abstract 
   thought.  It much preferred those activities to the activity of 
   reading.  Dreaming and abstract thought had a lure for me that 
   reading didn't possess.  In fact, it didn't really care much 
   for reading.   Keeping my mind on what I was reading was a 
   difficult struggle in high school.  For a long time my mind 
   would tend to drift off into dreaming or abstract thought 
   whenever I was supposed to be studying.  Forcing myself to 
   concentrate required a lot of self-discipline that I often 
   didn't have.  I would read a sentence or two and my mind would 
   drop out.  After awhile I would catch myself and realize I was 
   dreaming and decide I had better get back to work.  Then I 
   would read another sentence or two and my mind would drop out 
   again!  What a time I did have! 
                              

   Nov 1981




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