The problem of ‘interpretation’

Continuing the thoughts from the previous posts: A thought formed…. ,How the mind associates thoughts….

After a few more experiments with how the mind associates/connects different thoughts, I think I was not completely right in saying that our past experiences are interpreted and stored in the memory in ‘text like form’. I think it is slightly different. It is rather like the “interpretation” coming between you and the experience. These interpretations could be emotions (I like him, this is bad, horrible, I can’t take this pain…) or some priorities that we assign (I need to pay attention to this, there is an opportunity in here, this is what will make me successful…). During our thinking process, connections between thoughts are formed based on these ‘interpretations’

I tried to visually represent a thought train that I had. See below. This was a thought (thought train) that passed in my mind and I caught it after a while.

A thought train 

This is what happens. Because we have become dominantly logical people, the logical mind comes between us and the experience- judging, categorizing, analyzing. It is rather like trying to understand the ‘meaning’ of an experience, rather than the experience itself. Perhaps both the interpretation and the experience get to the memory, but our mind is more concerned about the ‘interpretation’. So, many a times, the experience fades away in memory and what remains is the ‘interpretation’.

But when it comes to the events that have not really happened (they exist only in the mind), the interpretation might have not yet happened. That’s why day dreaming still is an enjoyable thing to do..

But, why do we have to interpret things in an almost compulsive manner. This is because it is this interpretation that connects you to the world to create your sense of identity (of course a false one). We believe that our existence / identity depend on the world and what world thinks of us and there is a constant attempt to ‘prove’ to the world around who we are.

Most of the ancient religious traditions lay a great emphasis on ‘silence’. This is the key. Stop talking, and then the compulsion to express your feelings / experience as words will come down. And so the compulsion to interpret.

Another brilliant way to stop interpreting is to be with nature. As you might have observed, our need to interpret is much lesser when we are with nature, than with other human beings. Though there might still be some attempts like: what a lovely voice that bird has. But it is still infinitely better if you think of the complex process of interpretation that you need to undergo on meeting another human being…

When you were a child and probably you looked at a tree with wonder, not knowing what it is, your father told you – this is just a tree. And soon you learnt the trick. When you see a tree now, there is an immediate compulsive thought that comes up in the mind ‘that is just a tree’…

The Zen master, in the morning describes a dream that he had to his disciples.

The first disciple says ‘Master, hot water is ready; you can have your bath’.

The second says “Master, The meditation room is ready’.

 And the third asks “Master, What would you like for breakfast today?”

No one seems to pay any attention to the dream that the master described.

The master smiles: ‘If any of you had attempted to interpret my dream, I would have thrown you out of here’


3 thoughts on “The problem of ‘interpretation’

  1. Prakash

    Sajeev, Good thoughts about thoughts. Suggest reading this book by Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature. You can take your thoughts about thoughts in more detail and can even find a pattern; interestingly this pattern can be reused it seems, but I could never..

    All the best.

  2. Pingback: Problem solving – what happens in the mind « Head to Heart

  3. Pingback: Patterns and Creativity « Head to Heart

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