Of Pebbles, Politics, Mind, and Matter
A thought about thought
Thoughts are fascinating things to ponder over. Our individual realities are nothing more than a collection of our respective thoughts that are created, stored away, recalled, and processed constantly by thoughts - to generate still more thoughts. We are, as long as we have thoughts and cease to be when we don't.
The story that follows is an elaboration of this concept, which is woven into the life of a reclusive and scholarly young man. His thoughts and his analysis of this intriguing entity maneuver him through the maze of public life and elevate him to ultimately grace the seat of the President of the nation. The numerous incidents-some amusing, others somber, some others exciting, and a few that are poignant, form the backdrop of the story of this man's journey to the high office and beyond.
The story is being serialized on Squidoo, with a chapter being presented each week, beginning the third week of December 2011.
Chapter 1: Views and weaves
If only humans could see sound in addition to hearing it, then their perception and appreciation of existence and the overwhelmingly frightening complexity of its mechanism, would have become much more sensitive. It would also most certainly have driven them to madness - their brains not having developed enough for effecting such comprehension. Perhaps, it is for this reason that the evolutionary process had sought to deny humans this ability.
The closest analogy that was granted them to imagine the intricacies of life was to untiringly watch the ripples created by pebbles thrown into the calm waters of a lake, and the manner in which two or more of such concentric undulations interacted with each other in seemingly chaotic patterns, but which could be precisely presaged, if values of all variables that went into creating them were known.
But a placid lake was more like the "ideal" conditions that scientists work with, when they make a postulation and test it. Life was more akin to the interactions of ripples created by countless pebbles, stones, and boulders of all sizes and shapes, thrown into a rapidly flowing river, or on the surface of the sea during a storm. The medium on which these ripples manifested was of the ethereal kind and the pebbles, stones, and boulders corresponded to our emotional flicks of every hue-from gentle, serene, and composed contentment to wild, rampant, and unrepressed fury.
Despite its utter and unqualified simplicity, the lowly, little pebble-created-ripple was yet potent enough to bestow a glimpse of the deepest of understandings, and most profound aspects of knowledge. This could be verified time and again, by the fairly common spectacle of people in dignified solitude - regardless of the mood they are possessed with - indulging in the act of throwing pebbles at the calm surface of water bodies and watching the disturbance that they caused, in dreary fascination, when they sought answers to questions that confronted them. It was an act, as natural as breathing.
Charuchandra Chimalgi was satisfying this innate urge that day, and needless to say, he had an issue that bothered him.
He always had had, but who doesn't? That Chimalgi took recourse to this pastime more frequently than most others, could be attributed to the presence of a reasonable sized pond, behind his ancestral residence, and his unrestrained access to a length of its shoreline. He had seen the pond transform from being a picture of chaste tranquility in his childhood, to one of a cesspool fouled beyond saturation. Thankfully for him, the ripple making ability of water not being dependent upon its quality, the pond continued to serve his purpose. It, in fact, afforded a setting that reflected reality more closely.
His ancestral house too had kept pace with the manner and rate of transformation of the pond beyond its backyard. What had once been a small, yet quaint little dwelling was now a leaky, dilapidated structure. Someone looking at it for the first time in its present condition would have been taken aback at the thought that the place was still inhabited. But Chimalgi saw it with his mind's eye, which still showed a charming and pleasant abode, and more importantly, it painted the place in colors associated with the memories of his life there all these years, which only made it quainter. The stinky cesspool of a pond too was a sight of soothing serenity for him.
Another matter that would have surprised many, was how and why a structure like this with a sizable open land around it continued to stay beyond the grasp of real estate developers in this part of the city, which neither measured up to elite standards, nor was it part of the shantytowns that proliferated around the outskirts. It could be classified as a locality somewhere in between the two in this space-starved city, where even standing space came at an astounding premium.
The reason for this apparent paradox was not difficult to decipher, if such persons knew that Chimalgi was the nephew of the local councilor, and shared his surname. The councilor, who had been representing this area in the city's municipal corporation for almost a quarter century now, was of a rather ferocious disposition, which kept all land sharks at bay.
Charuchandra on the other hand, being a student of existential dynamics and who could imagine seeing sound not just under ideal conditions, but in real-world situations akin to a stormy sea surface, and could also equate them to the ceaseless deliberative undulations churned out by countless minds-would have had an observer's eye-view of all those multi-dimensional notional ripples involved, caused by the thought processes of every one associated with the phenomenon in question.
Chimalgi the councilor, himself had an eye on the property and it could not be said that familial considerations alone prevented that thought being put into action and seen through to its logical end. Ferocity was respected by people only if it was well attired in seeming decency. Since the time they took a fancy to clothing; the human species appeared to have lost the ability to assess a specimen of their kind from the shape, size, contour, and movement of its body parts. What covered the body was given more importance and that also masked and weakened their faculty of appraisal. A behavioral anthropologist would have termed it as "Nuance Sans Nudity Syndrome," and declared that if there was one overpowering reason that instigated the onset of "civilization", NSNS would definitely be it. People like Chimalgi the councilor, recognized this paradigm shift in "civilized" human thought and manipulated it to their advantage. Chimalgi knew that there would come a situation some day when he could appropriate the property. What was already his in yearning, would be so in reality too in the future. Not being a student of existential dynamics, he had no misgivings about it.
Developments over the past few weeks had made the ferocious councilor to believe that the time for his yearning coalescing into reality had neared. He had been implicated in a case of misappropriation of public funds, which would lead to his being impeached from his position as a people's representative, until the case was resolved one way or the other. The elder Chimalgi was unfazed. He had been in, and weathered worse circumstances, and every adverse happening brought along with it opportunities of betterment. One needed the knack of recognizing them.
Over the years, he had systematically eliminated all potential rivals from his domain of influence. Some had their political tethers severed; others were financially ruined; a few who proved to be very resilient and withstood these machinations were physically eliminated, with no evidence whatsoever linking him to the act, although everyone guessed who the perpetrator would have been. It was a clear and complete manifestation of the Nuance Sans Nudity Syndrome.
With a field bereft of opponents, the councilor resolved to have his proxy stand for the ensuing election to fill the seat that he would vacate, and keep his rightful seat at the municipal corporation warm, until he made a triumphant return. He had absolutely no uncertainty about his absolution in the case. The choice of the person, who would be his proxy in the interregnum, fell on his so-far-apolitical and seemingly-naive nephew. The wily councilor believed that this move would break the taboo that his nephew had imposed on using his decrepit dwelling for public activities - which was a euphemism to mean his personal use. Once he got a foothold on something, he knew how to grasp, seize, and capture the entire platform that afforded it.
Charuchandra Chimalgi had so long kept himself away from the rough and tumble of public life. His life was private to a fault. His countenance, disposition, and academic background, proclaimed this fact in a manner that was as contradictorily vociferous as the solitude and quietude that the man yearned for. His uncle's proposal greatly disturbed him and made him retire to his favorite place on the pond bank and indulge in his preferred pastime of throwing pebbles into the water.
After so many years of over-exploitation, there were no more pebbles left on the pond bank. But substitutes were aplenty. The open space around the water body had become a garbage dump. To a mind attuned to imagining a derelict house as a beautiful home, and a reeking cesspool as a picturesque pond, it did not require too much effort to visualize worn-out dry cells, damaged electronic parts, ruined metallic components of household machines, and the like, to be pebbles.
* * *
Individual traits occur in every possible combination-each such combination being unique, incomparable, and inimitable. Charu, as the younger Chimalgi was addressed by those close to him, was a man of exceptionally few spoken words. But written ones flowed in regular, relentless torrents, whether he wielded a pen or a keyboard. They weren't nonsensical either, for the discerning.
His literary skills were sought after regularly by all those who required to astound, impress, snare, or browbeat others with wordy webs, mazes, and traps. The range of such favor-seekers included politicians - for their speeches laden with unfulfillable promises, lawyers - for their arguments loaded with logical sounding absurd deductions, which hopped over the seeming abyss of irrationality with ease, powered by the sleight of word, and researchers, particularly in non-mathematical disciplines - for their thesis, weighed down by grandiloquent terms and expressions, which would make an ordinary, everyday article or idea seem exotic, glamorous, and mysterious.
That all these regular favor-seekers had their respective longings promptly and satisfactorily fulfilled, signified that the favor-giver enjoyed the exercise as well. That the members of the former group were also regular, indicated that the assistance was obtained with reasonably inexpensive outlays, which was generally goodwill most of the times. However, the one who harvested the goodwill and made use of it was Chimalgi the councilor. His nephew's talent was just one more tool for him to further his sway over the domain that he ruled.
Although a blend of peculiarities go to make a persona, one or two of them usually stand out, given the prevailing cultural environment, and the individual gets to be identified exclusively with them. In Charu's case, it was his wordy profligacy to begin with. A supposedly singular event during the course of his writing a doctoral thesis on behalf of the son of the elder Chimalgi's associate, brought into focus another phenomenon with which he had begun to be identified, from then on. It was the phenomenon of accidental acquisitions, whether the object in contention was material or notional.
There had been many instances of accidental acquisitions in the past twenty-seven years of his life, which also happened to be his age. Neither his family members, nor he, had keenly observed this distinctiveness with which he was endowed. Even if they occasionally did, it was looked upon as an oddity that could happen to anybody, once in a while. To an extent this was because, Charu never actively aspired for anything. He did have his likes and dislikes. But his yearning for likes weren't passionate enough and his abhorrence of dislikes weren't fierce and intense.
While at school, he had been drafted into the school's soccer team because many team members had reported sick an hour before an important match, and he happened to be loitering around in the vicinity. He had acquitted himself reasonably well and retained his place. A few years ago, as a token of appreciation of scripting services rendered, someone had bought him a lottery ticket. The person, who did so, believed that he was being smart, buying a lottery ticket worth five rupees for a service worth a few hundreds. Charu went on to win many thousands, when the winning ticket number was announced at the end of the month. Lady Luck smiled at him not very frequently, but whenever she did, she beamed and glowed.
Charu had noted, however, that his soccer jersey number had been "6," and so was the last digit of his lottery ticket number. Not being the kind, who went after what he desired, this observation was noted and filed in his memory, as an interesting coincidence.
The topic of dissertation that Charu was writing for his acquaintance was titled, "The taxonomy of thoughts and relationships; their applicability and expediency in the context of governance; and their constancy or inconsistency in the ever changing cultural milieu." Having done his Master's degree in the subject of political science, it was a theme that appealed to him as well.
During earlier assignments of this nature, he had been provided with all the required material in a disorganized and disconnected state. From this seeming chaos had emerged, order of the exquisite kind, fashioned by the word-weaving skills of Charuchandra Chimalgi.
But for this assignment, Charu found himself being mildly assailed by a hitherto unknown sentiment, a yearning to be part of the process of research, data collection, and analysis, in addition to his usual and enjoyable pastime of writing. He hesitatingly broached the matter to the researcher and was surprised at the latter's immediate acceptance. It was the 6th day of the month. The researcher acquaintance was elevated to the status of a friend and acquired a name - from Charu's perspective. It was Parsvanath Bhandari.
Parsvanath was intelligent, but indolent; inquisitive, but without initiative; imaginative, but at times a little irrational. Charu more than complimented his newfound friend in his little failings, and the pair hit it off quite well. The friendship having been cemented even before a synopsis of what the work will entail was presented to the thesis committee, Charu's expressive style graced the project from this stage itself. Further, Parsvanath's lineage, generously peppered by academic heavyweights - present and past, and Charu's equally weighty antecedents, dominated by the elder Chimalgi, established a congenial platform that allowed Charu to accompany his friend every place that needed to be visited and meet people that they were required to for the purpose. It was common knowledge that the two worked together, and only one would be awarded the doctoral degree.
The presentation of the synopsis was generally considered to be a staid affair and an inconsequential formality, as the aspirant was invariably known to the committee members, and wouldn't have come this far unless the passage to the next level of process was a certainty. Often, the committee was reduced to an individual, mostly the professor who would be the aspirant's guide, with the others granting their approval in absentia.
This being a unique situation involving the combination of a real, and a pseudo aspirant, both illustriously pedigreed, it caused an unusual level of interest in the concerned academic circles, and the committee was in full strength for the presentation of the synopsis. Parsvanath had indicated to his mentor that the theme of his proposed research was the study of relationships, and their manipulation by political activists and administrators for governance, and their correlation with the culture of the times.
It was an interesting topic in itself. But the manner in which it was presented in the synopsis - copies of it being distributed to all members a day in advance - generated unprecedented curiosity. And questions gushed out forcefully from those assembled, even before the two objects of oddity were seated on the chairs designated for them. The subtle, silent, invisible, but ever-looming combination of political and scholastic clout that formed an aura around the aspirant and his pseudo-double, had conspired to make the committee members sport the expressions that are reserved for nervous candidates, and those to be questioned, don the manner of interrogators. Otherwise, the setting, and what transpired within its confines, was on predictable lines.
"Why have you used the word 'taxonomy,' in the title of your synopsis? 'Classification' would have been a better alternative, less flamboyant, and more functional," began one of the members, taking care to see that his tone and look, wore a naÃ¯ve appearance, rather than an authoritative one.
Parsvanath smiled benignly at the questioner. "I asked Charu the same question, and he had a convincing answer for that. It would be better that he explains. Why don't you tell them, Charu?" he said, turning to his friend.
The man of sparing spoken words blinked. He had not bargained for this. Word weaving on paper or on the computer screen was his forte. Word delivery through the body's motor mechanism for vocalization was his failing.
"Come on, Charu. You don't have to be diffident," said Parsvanath, encouragingly.
Charu cleared his throat and began. He knew that trying to explain the situation would only prolong his agony, as he would have to first provide the clarification for his deficiency, which was not to be confused with diffidence, and then go on to justify his choice of the term "taxonomy."
Generously interspersed with pregnant pauses, which unintentionally added a measure of intrigue and mystery to his narrative, Charu began with an etymological introduction to the word.
"'Taxis' in Greek, refers to 'arrangement', while 'nomos' alludes to 'law'. Taxonomy then means the law of arrangement, and law by definition, follows an explicit and coherent sequence of arguments to arrive at a decision. Any group of things can be classified in countless ways, according to their attributes. Taxonomy can be only applied in situations, where classification also embodies a relationship between the attributes of the entities being classified, which follow a definite, and usually a unidirectional, pattern. Thoughts fit the description of such entities. There is a definite, logical, and unidirectional relationship, between individual components of a thought-flow."
An account that would have taken a minute for a person endowed with the normal phonetic potential of their vocal tracts to deliver manipulated sound, took Charuchandra Chimalgi almost ten minutes. But it was good that it did.
Many of those in the committee, who had used the words "taxonomy" and "classification" a number of times in their academic careers, had not bothered to probe their etymological antecedents; to them the words were almost synonymous. As they listened to Charu's involved elucidation, the distinction between the guide and aspirant, between the teacher and the pupil, between an expert and a layperson, stood completely blurred.
"Thoughts can surely be classified," remarked one committee member. "Just as machines can be classified by the use they are put to - by manufacturer, by the kind of work they do, by size, by weight, and so on - thoughts too can be classified by the manner of reaction they generate in a person - like, anger, happiness, sadness, tranquility, etc,. There is neither a relationship between these thought attributes nor is there a definite sequence in which they need to happen. This being the case, how can you justify the usage of the word "taxonomy" to the analysis of thought?"
To adhere to convention, the question was directed at Parsvanath, and to keep with the need of practicality, he in turn directed it to Charu, dispensing with the formality of doing so verbally and instead bouncing the enquiring glances converging upon him, towards his friend. The originators of the redirected glances too expected, and eagerly looked forward to such a realignment.
Charu cleared his throat yet again, and readied his motor mechanisms of vocalization for another arduous onslaught. Though he found it irritating at the physical plane, the exercise of convincingly defending his ideas was very stimulating and satisfying, intellectually.
"What you listed as thoughts are actually moods. There is a clear distinction between them. While a thought process endeavors to set right an imbalance caused by an external stimulus and proceeds towards finding a solution to the problem and implementing it, a mood is a temporary situational ambiance caused by the external stimulus, which gradually weakens and fades out with time. It has no direction. If one were to look for analogy for the two phenomena in the physical sciences, a thought could be identified with a vector and a mood to a scalar. Yes, moods do affect the quality and attributes of thought, as they course through them. But the essential nature of a thought does not change, in terms of its direction, intent, and logical succession. Moods can be classified, but thoughts would require being taxonomically analyzed to fully understand their origin, movement, and effects."
Another fifteen minutes had elapsed by the time Charu had finished his short discourse, sprinkled with thought-provoking timeouts, breath-taking breaks, inspirational interruptions, and stimulating silence.
It engulfed the committee members in a mood of mystified marvel, and caused thought-processes to originate and race towards stabilizing their feelings of imagined inadequacy.
"Do you mean to say that moods and thoughts are completely unrelated, with one having no bearing on the other?" asked another member, whose thoughts seemed to have been extremely potent for him to have recovered his stability much faster than the others. He did not bother to follow the protocol of routing his query through proper channels, and directly beamed it at Charu.
"I didn't say that. They are distinct, but both use the brain's material mechanisms to play out their roles, and both are triggered by external stimuli. Each influences the other. When thoughts proceed through the distinctive atmosphere of a particular mood, they change course slightly commensurate with its characteristics. On the other hand, the rate of weakening of a moody ambience is directly proportional to the intensity and velocity of the thought traffic that flows through it. So, each certainly effect the other," concluded the almost exhausted, and phonetic-potentially challenged, pseudo-researcher.
This sermon, though shorter, going by the number of words, was longer in duration than the previous one.
But the prompt answer returned the questioner to the state of cerebral meagerness, from which he had recovered with alacrity at the first instance. This time, he seemed to have run out of steam.
The chairman of the synopsis review committee looked around to see whether there were likely to be any further questions. The countenances of his colleagues unreservedly revealed the contrary.
"We approve of your synopsis, Mr. Bhandari," began the chairman, fixing his gaze upon Charu. An elbow-nudge from a colleague seated beside, alerted him to the folly and his focus reluctantly shifted to the entity whose name he had mentioned. "You may begin your research under the guidance of Professor Murari Daga, at your mutual convenience. Good luck!"
A contented Parsvanath, smiled. A relieved Charu massaged his throat from the outside, though it was the inside that throbbed and hurt badly. The set of intellectually battered committee members heaved silent sighs of relief. As the two friends got up to leave, a little correlational detail that he had missed noting earlier, made Charu turn back and look at the seated members of the academic jury again. There had been six of them.
"That was a swell job you did, Charu! Those guys were left spellbound," exclaimed Parsvanath, as they walked through the verdant campus grounds towards the exit gate.
Charu smiled wanly, and pointed to his throat.
"I can understand," continued Parsvanath. "Your achievement is all the more commendable considering that. But have you attempted to define thought?"
Charu pointed to his throat again and gestured to mean that they should discuss that some other time.
"No hurry, mate. We will keep that for later. Shall we meet tomorrow about this time?"
Charu nodded. The friends separated at the campus gate, and headed for their respective abodes.
* * *
That evening, inhabitants of the houses around the pond, particularly those, who had windows or doors facing it, were witness to the familiar sight of the irredeemably soft-spoken, and incorrigibly concise, bearded young man, sitting by the pond bank and throwing pretended pebbles into its putrid waters. Those who knew him more closely, realized from his manner that this portended a profuse outpouring of written words, which would go to make the day of some lucky lawyer, plucky political orator, or frolicky researcher, too lazy, or just incapable, of composing and rendering their thoughts.
And so it was indeed. Charu was debating with his "other self" on what thought was. Dealing and keeping abreast with varied subjects in the course of his wordy philanthropy, had immensely expanded his contemplative horizon, which greatly helped in such singular, and apparently unproductive pursuits. The enjoyable act of pebble throwing helped no less.
"What could thought be? Though seemingly notional, it should have a more concrete basis," he asked his other-self.
"I believe that the notion of thought, as it is understood, and described, is a historical compulsion. The capabilities of logical delineation, and experimental verification, have evolved at highly disproportionate rates. With early man, the former was faster. With modern man, the latter is fast catching up - if it has not already done so - and will soon greatly out-pace it."
"I can see what this is leading to. You are going to obliterate the distinction between a human and an android, between intelligence and its artificial counterpart, and perhaps, even between body and mind," said Charu, sifting through his beard with his long fingers.
"You seem to have a problem with it," countered his other-self, and not being conferred with the privilege of indulging in such casual, yet blissful practices such as beard-sifting, envying Charu for it.
"Naturally. Having been exposed from the time I was born, to the idea of there being two separate entities called 'body' and 'mind' that constitutes our person, to have to learn something different, is a bit daunting, abhorring, and demoralizing. The effort is doubled; because I will first need to unlearn whatever that I have learnt and believed to be the truth, for so long."
"It isn't as intimidating as you make it out to be. The inertia towards change, which is an inherent quality of the thought process, is what causes this antipathy."
"There should be some valid reason for such a natural aversion. Why fight something that is innate. It can lead to disastrous consequences," said Charu, trying to shore up his argumentative defenses.
"It is not adapting to change that can lead to disastrous consequences, it is to the contrary," replied the other-self.
"We seem to be digressing too far from our original question," remarked Charu, hoping that this would steer the discussion away from the current domain of discomfort.
The other-self was, however, aware of Charu's deviousness. It was, after all, his other self. "We will go back to our original question, as you desire. But we will be inevitably returning to this question as well very shortly. And I can assure you that it will be you, who would provide the answer," it said.
Charu felt at ease, though he doubted his other-self’s assertion. “So, what is thought?” he asked, for the second time.
Not having to use his vocalization motor mechanism for a dialogue this time, and thought expression needing no motorable mechanism, the discussion was going on at a relatively quick pace.
“I would say that the signals produced by the brain to stabilize the body mechanism to frequently changing external stimuli, particularly those that change beyond certain threshold levels, are classified as thought.”
“Can you elaborate and justify the clauses?” asked Charu, sifting through his long mane for a change. The skin supporting the beard was beginning to hurt because of over-sifting for the past few minutes.
“Take breathing for instance,” began the other-self. “You don’t think to breathe, yet the brain coordinates every function of the breathing mechanism of the body, using means that are very similar to a conscious thought process. Such coordination is, however, confined to the specific mechanism alone. It doesn’t qualify to be called a thought, because the changing external factors are within acceptable limits. Now, consider the person walking up an incline at a very high altitude, who will be gasping for breath and the change in the external stimuli would have gone beyond the acceptable threshold. It would require coordinating other unrelated body mechanisms to address this imbalance and restore stability. The alternatives available would be to inhale oxygen from a backpack cylinder, redirect the person’s steps towards lower altitudes, or hope to fold up and fall unconscious, which will drastically reduce body functions and hence reduce the load upon the heart and lungs.”
“Hey, that is a very interesting distinction,” remarked Charu. “By your arguments, consciousness is the brain’s coordination of body functions simultaneously to address a threat to its balance, and which has crossed a threshold level, while unconscious or reflex activity is the brain’s normal coordination of body functions below this threshold level.”
“Great!” said the other-self. “I see that you are almost as intelligent as I am.”
“You are only a shadow of me, and exist, because I do. Don’t get too uppity,” cautioned Charu.
“Cool it, dude. Don’t get so touchy,” said the other-self, conciliatorily, and then continued, “Yes, that could be a broad picture. But there is certainly more to it.”
“Let me explain the brain mechanism as I see it, which encompasses pretended entities like the heart – not the physiological, but the notional one – and the mind. I believe that all brain activity involves gathering signals from receptors, comparing them with information stored in the memory database, making a decision about whether or not an intervention is necessary and if so, send a signal to the appropriate mechanism to perform a pertinent function, and include – if necessary – the signal received and the signal sent, as information into the database. This is done parallelly for a multitude of functions.”
“So far, whatever that you have described is pretty much the manner in which a parallel processing computer would work. You may have pinched this description directly from a textbook on computers and called it your own original thought,” remarked Charu, wryly.
“If I pinched it from a text book, you would have read it too. The fact that you don’t remember having read one proves that it is original thought. Now, stop passing lewd remarks and listen to me.”
“You call this lewd? Then you don’t have an idea about what the term means. Shall I give you some examples?”
“No thanks. We will stick to the topic we are dealing with. The memory database can be imagined to be partitioned into three sections named unconscious, subconscious, and conscious. The boundaries between them can be fairly nebulous, shifting within limits depending on the need of the moment.”
“Now, this sounds interesting. Go on,” prompted Charu.
“The unconscious database comes preset. You could say that it is a congenital bequest. It is the one from which the brain checks about the optimum levels of functioning of all body parts and the corrective measures to be taken, if there is a deviation.”
“But we never get to know what is stored there.”
“Everything that happens – physiological or notional – is need based, and is organized in a manner that makes use of the energy available in a most efficient way. There is no necessity for such information to be moved to the other database called conscious or awareness.”
“Can we experimentally tap into this database?”
"Perhaps, someday, we will; once science establishes definitely, in which part of the brain this database is located."
"It could also be diffused all over."
"Okay, continue with your postulation."
"The subconscious database gets populated with information about those things that we do or need to do on a regular basis, which after it has been learnt, does not need to remain in the conscious database."
"Language comprehension and usage, appreciation of music - which is also a language - and the manner that it is rendered, either vocally or through an instrument, the conception and procedures of everyday physical activities like, eating, running, reading, writing, working with any of the multitudes of machines invented to produce various article of daily use . . . the list can be endless. All this information and the decisions to be taken when our senses are accosted by an input pertaining to it, is stored in this database."
"What is there to be stored? Once something is learnt, it doesn't need to be re-learnt every time that it is made use of."
"Take for instance the letter 'S.' Every time your eyes locate it, its shape has to be compared with the equivalent of its image stored in the subconscious database, the information about how it is to be pronounced as a stand alone letter and in conjunction with other letters following or preceding it, and what meaning such a positioning is likely to convey, is retrieved and sent to the conscious database as well as to the motor mechanisms of vocalization, if the person were to be reading aloud. For something that has been 'learnt,' and is of a repetitive nature, the number of decision-making steps can be greatly reduced and the entire process made energy efficient. The subconscious mind helps in doing this."
"Yes, I suppose that would be the only way that it could happen. But what the brain accomplishes is incredible!"
"The conscious database is where all information of a non-repetitive nature and their attributes are stored. There can be a constant transfer of information between the databases, depending upon specific requirements, but the mechanism by which the brain processes records and arrives at decisions should be the same regardless of which database it accesses. It is the conscious database that constitutes our awareness, and it is the decisions that the brain takes based on information stored here that is recognized as 'thought.'"
Charu, who was wearing a sleeveless vest, was unrestrainedly and gratifyingly scratching himself under the armpit, he pondered over the postulations of his other-self.
The other-self could contain itself no longer. "Will you stop this irritating behavior? You have been unashamedly scratching yourself all over, since we started this discussion. It makes me lose focus," it chided Charu.
"The oppressive heat and humidity affects only me, requiring me to scratch at select places and not all over as you put it. You don't have a body and are free of this nuisance. What is your problem, eh?" retorted Charu, equally annoyed.
"It is the expression of pleasure and satisfaction that suffuses your countenance that is irritating. I don't get to savor such delight," complained the other-self.
"Don't aspire for the impossible and learn to find bliss in the enjoyment of others," counseled Charu. Wanting to continue with the fascinating debate, he remarked, "It is strange that though the brain employs a similar mechanism to process all information and take decisions, it is only decisions taken based on information in the conscious database that is labeled as 'thought.' The other decisions are equally valid thoughts as well, aren't they?"
"Yes, it does appear to be discriminatory. But a human has devised other names for such decisions. 'Sixth sense,' 'heart," and 'mind,' are his coinages for the three distinct types of thought generation processes."
"Which of them is which?"
"They kind of overlap. If a decision is arrived at using information predominantly from the unconscious database, and a little from the other two, then it is called sixth sense. There have been many recorded instances of people being stranded in inhospitable environments, and doing things that they would never have normally done, to save themselves. Information about this should already be existing in the unconscious database, which is tapped into, and a conclusion arrived at. The information being outside the conscious or awareness database, it is unrecognizable, and so conveniently attributed to an entity called the sixth sense."
"Interesting. What about the 'heart'?"
"When the information is taken in equal measure from the unconscious and subconscious, then a person is said to be deciding with his heart. On the other hand, if the basis of a decision is predominantly the information stored in the conscious database, then it is considered to be one made by the mind."
"Where do you belong?" asked Charu of his other-self. "You should surely be residing in my 'mind.' If it were not so, then you wouldn't be speculating about the contents of my unconscious and subconscious. Your knowledge too, is confined to my awareness, is it not?"
"Yes," replied the other-self, sheepishly.
"I suspected it all along, despite the 'More knowledgeable than thou' attitude that you have been sporting. You have let your secret out of the bag in the process of explaining your theory. But I still consider you a friend, and commend you on your incisive analysis," said Charu.
"Thanks," replied the other-self, before merging back into Charu's consciousness.
* * *
It was two days later, that Charu met Parsvanath at the latter's house, to carry the agenda of their joint venture forward. The official researcher, given to little failings like not very irregular partying, and occasional binges at casinos, had had a particularly late night and its unavoidable hangover.
"Did you give a thought to what it is?" asked Parsvanath, bleary eyed, with a slight slur in his speech that still lingered.
"Yes, I did," replied Charu, and went on to explain all that had transpired between him and his other self at the pond bank.
"You seem to have an airtight theory. I begin to wonder whether our research has changed course, and whether we need to present a new synopsis. This one appears to be a far more exciting topic for research than the earlier one," remarked Parsvanath, his eyes brightening, and the slur rapidly diminishing. The stimulation provided by Charu's "Theory of Thought" acted as an instant, potent, and forceful invigorator.
"Look, every research requires a basic idea that drives it. We can appropriate this 'Theory of Thought' as the driving force for the topic that we started with earlier. It would provide an apt environment to test the theory's validity by subjecting the multitudes of thought-flows across history that have made rulers and administrators act the way they did," replied Charu.
"That is a great idea!" exclaimed Parsvanath, the last vestiges of the hangover vanishing from his contemplative self, leaving only his body to continue to bear the telltale signs. "We could begin testing your theory right away. I have a few questions on it. Shall we begin?" he asked.
"Shoot," said Charu.
"Going by the idea of our memory being partitioned into three distinct areas, I would suppose that the effect of moods would be confined to the conscious area alone. The other two partitions will remain unaffected by them. Would you agree?"
"Yes, that is what it points to."
"You explained that a stimulus is first matched with the stored information, and then a decision is arrived at, based on the quality and content of the result of the matching. What is it in this process that triggers a mood?"
"I would infer that it is the quality and content of the result of the matching exercise that also causes a mood, in addition to triggering a decision. If the matches are easily and quickly found, there is less energy expenditure and effort, which should cause a positive mood. If it is to the contrary, then it will be a negative mood. The shade of the mood within a given range will depend upon the traits and preferences of the person, information about which will be available in the unconscious database."
"You also mentioned about information being drawn by the brain predominantly from the unconscious database to arrive at decisions classified as 'sixth sense'. The trigger for this decision should have surely been provided by the external environment, which would be processed in the realm of consciousness and the decision and its repercussions too would be within the ambit of awareness. Do you think that the trigger itself will have a component that causes the brain to seek for solution in a particular database?"
"Yes, I believe that should indeed be the case. Consider the example of our instantaneously disliking a person for no apparent reason. There should be some form of vibes - of a chemical origin or any form of radiation emanating from the person - that is detected by our receptors associated with one or more of the five senses. The brain should be comparing it with the information stored in all three of the databases. If a match is found in the awareness database, we are able to name the cause of dislike. However, if the match is found in the other two, especially in the unconscious, we have no means of identifying it. That is your sixth sense."
"Similar to the effects of genetic mutation, do you think it will be possible to have people born with conditions that enable them to be aware of the contents of all three databases?" asked Parsvanath.
"That would be an hypothesis within another. Unless science verifies this theory and identifies separate brain parts that are seen to be analogous to the proposed partitions and also confirms a common data retrieval and decision making mechanism, it would be too early for such a speculation. But in the event of the theory being confirmed, then I am sure that could be a possibility," observed Charu.
"Is it probable that those who have extraordinary capabilities of inference and deduction and who are hailed as prodigies are such mutational freaks?"
"Look, Parsvanath. As I said, we can't consider an assumption to be true until proved and indulge in further assumptions on the basis of the unproven one. It would be better, if we were to confine ourselves to subjecting as many example situations to this theory, and analyzing whether it is able to satisfactorily explain them all," said Charu, sternly.
"But you did mention that information on the traits and preferences of an individual is stored in the unconscious database. It has already been established that genes carry this information. Logically then, the genotype should have a direct correlation to the unconscious," persisted Parsvanath.
"You have a point there," agreed Charu, which made the official researcher feel that he too had contributed a little to it.
"However, to be able to analyze thoughts, which would include the cause of their origin, the need that they address, and the path that they take towards achieving their goal, will require a further extension of the theory developed so far. Is it not?" asked Parsvanath.
"I think rudiments for such an extension are already there. We only need to establish a protocol to follow, which can numerically determine the strength of the variables involved in the process, and use them in definite ways to determine its most likely direction and consequence," replied the ever-thinking unofficial researcher.
"Should we begin establishing this protocol?"
"Yes, we could. We will start with an example. How would it be, if we were to analyze your decision to pursue doctoral studies?" enquired Charu.
"I thought we were going to deal with thoughts of those who are politically inclined."
"Who isn't? We all are. Politics by definition is the art or science of governance. The brain constantly endeavors to govern the working of the rest of the body and itself. Each of us attempt to govern every moment of our lives. Notional heads of a family attempt to govern the lives of its members, as does an elected or imposed national government of its subjects. There is no difference in the thematic attributes of these thoughts, though there may be many nonspecific characteristics that do not influence their primary function, and make them appear to be sporting different colors, shapes, tastes, and odors."
"You have missed out on the sound making ability of thoughts," remarked Parsvanath. Though Charu had listed the sensory characteristics of thoughts more as a manner of speech, Parsvanath found it funny and weird.
"You can add that too, if you want," replied Charu.
"Then why have we specified the word 'administrators' in the title of our synopsis?" asked Parsvanath.
"To make it appear focused. It is like segregating the study of science into physics, chemistry, biology, and so on, when what we are essentially probing is the working of existence. We provide focus on a particular aspect of this study when we call it by any one of those specific names."
With only one person to converse with, Charu could keep up the dialogue going for this long at a low level of audibility, which required the other interlocutor to huddle close him. The effort, however, was beginning to tell. His hand began to involuntarily massage his throat.
"I suggest that you have a sip of rum, whisky, vodka or a cocktail, to soothe your throat. Shall I fix one for you?" asked Parsvanath. His hospitality was partially stimulated by his yearning to have a drink himself.
It was a disappointed host, who requested his valet for two cups of tea, when the guest with a predilection for sobriety, declined the offer.
"Whatever that we need to do now, would involve communicating through writing. I will use that means for normal communication also from my end, if I find it difficult to converse verbally," declared Charu, taking out a notebook and pen from his carry-bag.
"Fine," agreed Parsvanath, resignedly.
Their research had crossed the threshold, which separated the domains of hypothesis and experiment.
* * *