Thinking About Thoughts

12 02 2011

My daughter Mikaela is taking Biology 12; right now they are studying “The Brain.” The other day she came home with a great question: “How do you explain a thought?” She didn’t expect an answer, because who can answer that question? Who can explain the existence of a thought, how it begins to form, how it is perceived, why a person thinks one thought and not another,  the random nature of thoughts, the influence of thoughts on the human body? Who can, for that matter, explain the idea of “the mind” versus the brain; the mind where thoughts toss back and forth? The brain is something we can hold in our hand, but who can explain “changing your mind”?

Two things happen when I begin to ponder something like this.

First, I want to shake someone by the shoulders and say, “How can you possibly believe that an explosion, a billion years, and a teaspoonful of swamp-slime could just happen to evolve into something as inexplicably complex as the brain? Added to that, how could absolute un-intelligence weave the magic of the invisible thought?

I am several steps beyond swamp-slime and I still burn the toast. People with letters beside their name spend a life-time just trying to understand one little piece of a cell and still can’t fill in all the blanks. I struggle to believe that a “thought” was the handiwork of…nothing.

Really, its kind of funny, because “evolution” stands outside of us like, hate to say it, kind of like a god. We constantly refer to Evolution, though we can’t see it, we don’t understand it, and it is something that makes decisions without us. We can’t do what Evolution does, which is strange because Evolution (forgive the word:) created us and so far we are its smartest product. Yet we, the newest model, can’t understand what is happening to us and don’t have the ability to alter our future. Evolution does what Evolution does; it doesn’t sit down and talk with us about its plans. Is this fair? If we are the ones Evolution is messing with, don’t you think we should have a say? We should collectively agree that for the next round, we should come out understanding more and not worry so much about growing an extra limb.

If we could just admit that “faith” is the common foundation we all stand on when it comes to understanding our existence it would help a lot because then at least we could use the brains we have in our heads to really think. Think about it. Think about it. And as you think about it, think about thinking and pause to experience the wonder of the silent conversation.

This is the second thing that happens, when I consider how people are so wonderfully made. I experience this shot of wonder (itself inexplicable and of no evolutionary purpose) at something so INCREDIBLE…that right now a thought is flitting across my mind and I cannot explain IT.

Thoughts are rational and irrational; one thought can make or break the day. One thought can be healing and one can be devastating. One thought makes me jump to my feet; one thought makes me hide under my covers for another hour. One thought can make my heart skip a beat; one thought can make me cry. One thought can be a decision that changes everything that day or everything in life.

Sometimes you can’t even express a thought. It just is. You feel it but you don’t know how to say it. You don’t even know what it was as it races across your perception. In my own life, this is where I have often felt “met” by God, in this place of influence, knowing that thoughts guide me. It is here, if I allow Him, He guides my thoughts and actions through His wisdom (Ecclesiastes 7:23).

The Bible has a lot to say about thoughts, recognizing that so many people have no room in their thoughts for God (Psalm 10:2). In fact, we go as far as to think we are the creator and God is our creation,

You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”? (Isaiah 29:16)

What are we thinking?

The Bible recognizes that we can wrestle with our thoughts, alone, day after day without resolution (Psalm 13:2), how thoughts can be troubling and distressing (Psalm 55:2) with no end in sight. They can be childish (1 Corinthians 13:11), self-serving, but they can also turn towards what is good and godly (Ephesians 2:3).

The Bible talks about Gods profound thoughts (Psalm 92:5); what a gift to be able to get a glimpse into how He thinks and directs us. We are on His mind and always have been; I can pick up the Bible any time and read about how I was created, why I was created, and what my future holds. I am challenged to give thought to how I am living and where I am going (Proverbs 4:26, 14:15). I have a choice in all this and I can take control of my thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Psalm 139:2 says, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.” Evolution may recognize that we have thoughts; but God is the one who says He knows them.

— Teresa Klassen

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