Request: I got a fascinating email about thinking. I'm sharing my thoughts, but I'd appreciate yours too. It's kind of a difficult question - how do you think? But it's fascinating, so I'd like you to weigh in after reading this post.
Fascinating email from Huy Nguyen -
My name is Huy, 21 years old from Vietnam currently studying in Singapore. I've been reading your blog and I must say you're 1 hell of an inspiring guy! Recently I have been pondering on the topic of mindfulness/self-consciousness and I thought why not drop you an email to say hi and seek for some help :)
My current problem is my thought speed is restricted to how much I can spell the thoughts out (in words and sentence) in my minds. And that'd be really slow. Sometimes, I'm able to speed-thinking (if that's the right word). I don't actually need to spell out the words in my mind, just link to some picture/scene and somehow I'm able to articulate and understand the situation in my mind. But this is a very rare case and I'm not fully able to control it.
Have you ever encountered this problem? Do your mind think in English as well, or some special-made brain language?
Another thing, I'm bilingual, I use both English and Vietnamese (both are equally ok). But I found myself a totally different person/characteristics when using English and when using Vietnamese. Whatever experiences I went through/articulated in English, they just aren't around my mind when I use Vietnamese. I'm not so sure if you take up a second language, but if that's the case have you ever encountered what I do?
I hope you're having a good time in KL. Do enjoy the street food there. And I look forward to your reply :)
And my reply -
Hey Huy -
This is a fascinating email, really smart email...
How do I think? Hmm. I also think in language, but there seems to be discrete "areas" of language. So, I might have thoughts on two topics at the same time, and I keep them largely separate while looking at both of them. That's how I synergize things.
I kind of analogize it to balloons. I'll have two or three balloons up in the air - for instance, let's say I'm writing an article about rationality. At that point, maybe I'll have a quote from a Paul Graham article, a quote from an Eliezer Yudkowsky article, and a main thought at the same time. Then I'll try to draw a line from the main point to Graham to Yudkowsky. At that point, once I've written down the quotes from Graham and Yudkowsky, I can let those balloons go and they disappear into wherever thoughts you're not thinking go. Now I have more mental space to fill up new balloons (thought areas) to continue with the next parts of my writing.
Huh. I've never really thought about this too much before.
Would it be cool with you if I posted your email on my blog and asked for feedback? This is a really good topic. I don't know much about it, but I know some smart people who probably do. If you say yes, how should I credit you? "Huy", "Huy Nguyen", or anonymous is okay... also, if you have a site for me to link to, I'll do that.
Would be interesting to have more discussion on the topic. Thanks for the email, really thought provoking stuff here. Cool to post it?
Additionally, on language -
Also, yes, I speak a smattering of a handful of languages. Interestingly, there's some words/thoughts that are easier to have in other languages. For a while, I was thinking probably 10% of my thoughts/words in Japanese, since there's some short words that contain big thoughts in Japanese. I'm not fluent in any other languages, but I know what you mean about that. I've heard bilingual/trilingual people "switch" back and forth with languages sometimes, and have different personalities in different languages. Often it's because they'll know technical terms in one language (like English) but not know any jokes/playfulness/sillyness. So someone might joke around and have fun in their native language, but be much more serious in their second language, especially if it's the one they learn something technical in (like finance, engineering, etc).
How about you, dear reader? How do you think? I know it can be odd to... think about, but I'd like to hear your take.