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Does Abstract Thought Really Work?

Updated on November 21, 2012

Steve Martin, the all-time "master" of abstract thought


A Few Typical Responses By People When YOU Use Abstract Thought

"hey, family! Let's learn how to talk in abstract thought."
"hey, family! Let's learn how to talk in abstract thought."
"now what does that mean?"
"now what does that mean?"
Some people just try to understand what abstract thought really is and go on about their day.
Some people just try to understand what abstract thought really is and go on about their day.
"Ohh, that man who used abstract thought made me realize that "I" am not ready for marriage."
"Ohh, that man who used abstract thought made me realize that "I" am not ready for marriage."
"Sir, that you just said was sweet!"
"Sir, that you just said was sweet!"


Yes. And no. For those who can master the art of abstract thought, yes, it works. And works well. But for those who struggle with their lack of allowing their minds to be free, no. Abstract thought for these sad souls doesn't work at all.


Okay. I will try to answer to the best of my ability, that question. Better yet, allow me to use Steve Martin, a fantastic stand-up comedian who emerged from the pack of comedian wanna-be's in the mid 80's with a brash, fresh and revolutionary style to his concerts. Martin was the first to use "abstract thought" in his humorous routines.

Abstract thought simply means that you take an original thought, a truth and embellish an atmosphere around it, maybe a "teasing" introduction, and when the set-up has been established, you let the audience have it with an obvious end-result. EXAMPLE: One of Martin's best bits was the "Men's Underwear" routine. He would say, "since today's audiences are more sophisticated and understanding, "I" can confess something that I do and not be afraid of being judged or labelled a pervert. Then slowly he "admits," "I like to get into town early, get a nice motel room, then hit the K-Mart's and buy, well, okay. I confess, I--like--to--wear--men's--underwear." "There, I've said it. I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders." The audiences ate this one up. This would be my prime-example of abstract thought.


on CBS' hit, M*A*S*H, was also a disciple of abstract thought, but in his character as chief surgeon, "Hawkeye" Pierce, he would use spontaneity, and complex abstract thought responses, although most of the time, humorous, to confuse the "stuffy" disciplined-characters who surrounded him. Larry "Frank Burns" Linville was his main target as well as McLean "Col. Henry Blake" Stevenson, who didn't need "Hawkeye's" abstract thought to be confused as he, "Blake," lived in a near-catatonic state of confusion as the head of the M*A*S*H unit.

All in all, these two artists, Martin and Alda, pulled it off. The usage of abstract thought in their careers as entertainers.


who literally "blew the doors off" of the entertainment world when he debuted on-stage as the comedian who's machine-gun yakking and random impressions of famous people that happened to fast that his audiences were begging for him to allow them to catch their breath. Williams said in years after he had reached fame-status that Jonathan Winters had been his main influence on being a comedian. In fact, Williams did a bit with Winters on a off-beat variety show and the audience went wild.

Williams, like Martin and Alda, also built his amazing performances on stage, in film and television, "Mork and Mindy," on the foundation of abstract thought. Except in William's case, he added speed and impromptu segments to his scripted stand-up routines which can be said was the "icing on cake" in helping to make Williams a household word in our society.


We shall see. I don't want to come-off sounding like a know-it-all since I only graduated from high school with a "C" average, but maybe with this story and your intelligence and reasoning, "we" can look at some test examples of abstract thought and find out in a short time "Does Abstract Thought Really Work?"

Robin Williams used Spontaneous Abstract Thought in his stand-up routines


Examples of Abstract Thought Being Used in . . .


You are running a bit late for work. You hurry and park your car in the parking garage across from your office building. Then you charge into your building, fight for a space on the elevator, and arrive at your floor where you work as a C.P.A. for a notable accounting firm with clients ranging from Alec Baldwin to Cher.

Before you can settle-in at your cubicle, your overbearing boss says, "Johnson, do you know how late you are?" Your abstract response is, "no, boss, but if you hold up some pictures, I'm sure that I can identify it." RESULT: Boss gets confused as to what he should do, yell at you or find some photos you asked for.


You sit quietly as the ushers pass around the offering plate and you are next to lay your monetary-offering into the young man's plate. "Mr. Johnson," the usher says. "you gave a hundred-dollar bill. Are you sure you want to do that?" Your abstract reponse is, "not really, but scram before I "am" sure." RESULT: young usher beams with happiness and chuckles.


"Larry Stumpp," an assistant office manager in your business is driving you, "Bob Henson," and "Thom Barger," to a business seminar in Denver, Colorado and you are a couple of hours ahead of schedule. "Stump" suggests, "hey, guys, let's hit the strip-joints! We have two hours to kill, and maybe we can all "get lucky" with one of those hot, Colorado girls who take their men to lavish hotel rooms with mirrors on the ceiling. Your abstract response is, "gonna pass, Larry. I've seen my naked butt enough in my life." RESULT: "Stumpp," gets hacked at you while "Bob," and "Thom" roll in the floor board in the back of the car heaving with laughter at your response.


"Sally Loosely," who loves guys with an addiction, is sitting in a moderately-priced restaurant that you have chosen. You and her are not talking at the present time. Suddenly "Sally" feels remorse at being so aggressive when you picked her up and she almost ripped your shirt off to see your hairy chest. "Bill," she softly says. "yes, Sally," you politely-reply. "I am sorry," she says while looking down. Your abstract reponse is, "no, Sally. I think you are a terrific girl!" RESULT: a great time had by you in her apartment later that night.


Officer: "son, you were going 67 in a 45 zone! Are you going to a fire? Your abstract response is, "yes, officer. I am. I have this "burning" in my intestines to 'answer nature's call' is why I was driving so fast."RESULT: a warning, not a real ticket due to the officer "thinking" you realy have a "burning condition" in your bowels.


Uppity customer, "why did you get behind me?" Your abstract response is, "be quiet and move ahead. I am a trained professional." RESULT: line speeds up and no more stupid questions from the uppity person.


Pretty girl: "haven't I seen you in this mall before?" Your abstract response is, "not without a police escort,"RESULT: pretty girl laughs and loves your sense of abstract thought. You strike-up a conversation and have a long, rich relationship.

One more "working example," then a "Bonus Feature."


Personnel director: "son, are you accustomed to working lots of overtime and weekends?" Your abstract response is, "not if the president doesn't order me to."RESULT: instant-respect. And you get this great job that pays you twice what you made at the DVD rental store.

Bonus Feature:

Words and Phrases NOT Associated with Intelligent Abstract Thought

  • "Shoot, yeah!"
  • "Huh?"
  • "I didn't untie your shoes, ma'am."
  • "please give me this promotion."
  • "forgive me, honey. I was in a hurry."
  • "but coach, I am new."
  • "Shoot, I reckon."
  • "Beats me."
  • "You bet."
  • "Shoot, I forgot."
  • "What was that?"
  • "Her what was hung where?"
  • "Cheerleader? I thought you were a girl!"
  • "Mannequins? I love 'em."


  • Serious look on your face - no one will believe a stupid, grinning face.
  • Perfect diction. If you stutter once, you are busted.
  • Eye contact. Make sure "you" are in charge.
  • Fast delivery of your words or phrases - success waits on no one.
  • Be prepared to have a secondary come-back.
  • Make your first phrase count. No time for you to hum, haw around.

I think that the subject of "Can Abstract Thought Really Work," has been thoroughly-inspected and reviewed well by yours truly.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go and tame a water buffalo.

Alan Alda, (foreground), as "Hawkeye Pierce," made M*A*S*H audiences gush with laughter with his random, complex, abstract thought. In background, Loretta "Hot



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    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 

      5 years ago from California

      I loved this hub Kenneth! I am always trying to catch people off guard. I meet the best people by doing so.... Case in point, Just happened on New Year's Eve morning as my honey and I met my friend and her son and his girlfriend for brunch at a Mexican restaurant. We were well into our meal and the waiters put together 4 tables to accommodate a family of 20. As the family members arrived, they were all greeting each other with hugs and kisses, some who haven't seen each other for a long time.. this greeting ritual seemed to go on for about 20 minutes. As this was taking place, my honey and I looked at each other and knew exactly what we were each thinking and immediately got up and joined in with the family festivities. It was about 10 minutes before someone realized we weren't with the group. Everyone was getting such a big kick out of it and we all started taking pictures with each other. We now have emails of several new friends...and "family" LOL

      Great hub Kenneth... Love love loved it!---Lisa Happy New Year my friend!

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Peter is :) ing, so he wont be upset with me or anyone human up my way.

      Thanks, catgypsy, for your kindness, support and tremendous friendship.

      LOVE YOU to YOU and YOURS . . .from me, the family and Peter

    • catgypsy profile image


      5 years ago from the South

      Haha...I'm sending them!

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Gypsy Rose Lee,

      Much obliged at your kind comment. And listen. YOU, Mary, Catgypsy, picklesandrufus are ALL abstract-thinkers, just don't know it. That's the bottom line. And speaking of that phrase, why is it that "below" "THE" bottom line on contracts, there is ANOTHER line that says, "above is the bottom line"???

      Curious things, I guess.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dearest Catgypsy,

      Thank you, dear friend, for this sweet comment that made me smile, and up here in Hamilton, the skies are dark and overcast. Thank God for YOU and all of my wonderful followers who always BECOME MY SUNSHINE on such days.

      God bless you and Peter says that unless you send him a bushel of persimmons, he is leaving for Kentucky.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Mary,

      And thanks, from my heart, to you too, for your kind comments. And listen. I want to say this in love to you . . .YOU ARE AS QUICK-WITTED as I, or anyone else. DO NOT say such things about yourself. That makes me sad. Chin up. We are in HubVille together as one family. When one hurts, we all hurt.


      God bless you, Mary.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear picklesandrufus,

      Thank you kindly for your kind remarks. This is a first, me being called an abstract-thinker, and I not only take that as a high compliment, but an humbling phrase. Thanks again.

      I do my best to take the obvious and make it into something to think about or laugh at.

      I don't want to leave this world and ever be thought of as boring or as you say, mundane.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and funny. Just fantastic. I'm not as quick witted and that gets me into trouble at times. Those who do it well are sure quick on the draw. Passing this on.

    • catgypsy profile image


      5 years ago from the South

      I agree with picklesandrufus, you definitely are an abstract thinker Kenneth! I don't know of anyone else who comes up with such off the wall hubs that are so entertaining! You never cease to amaze me with the topics you cover!

    • Mary Merriment profile image

      Mary Merriment 

      5 years ago from Boise area, Idaho

      You are more quick witted when it comes to abstract thinking than I am. I have a day here or there where things seem to come together in this manner. But, most of the time, it just isn't happening for me. This was fun!

    • picklesandrufus profile image


      5 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

      You are definitely an abstract thinker Kenneth! You never fail to take the mundane and make an entertaining and delightful hub in a way that is not like any other hubber I have read. Your mind is very creative, simply by it's nature. As always, fun read!

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Thanks, catgypsy, for this another sweet and encouraging comment. This is a TRUE Story.

      Hee Haw star, Gillard Sartain, who also starred with Jim Varney in those Ernest Goes to Work, movies, said of the late Roger Miller, songwriter and singer that one day he and Miller happen to pass in the hallway of some music production company in Nashville, and without thinking, he, Sartain, shouted . . ."Hi," Miller smiled and quipped, "me too." That is purely the work of a sharp, abstract mind.

      I envy that.

      Love, Kenneth

    • catgypsy profile image


      5 years ago from the South

      Another funny hub! I think it's a case of catching people off their guard...can work wonders sometimes.


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