Epiphanies: I wish I'd realized that months ago...

I've recently been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a very deep, philosophical book my dad had started reading to me but did not finish before I started college.

I came to the realization that were I not in a science such as computer science, or physics, or math... I'd be a philosopher. Probably one of the most annoying because of my typical processes for defining my philosophy and how I think about things.

Typically I can do a lot of thinking by myself, and since most of my thinking is primarily for myself there isn't much issue. However, it is often nice to have a sounding board, an echo, or another thinker to help or accompany the process. This is where problems arise.

It wasn't until now that I realized exactly where a disconnect was occuring between me and most of my friends when it comes to discussions of the philosophical nature. This isn't aloof philosophy dealing only with life, death and the nature of meaning but pure philosophy, thought that covers everything. How the typical assumption of what philosophy is factors into the disconnect is unknown, but is an obvious presense.

In any case, I've long noticed a disconnect between me and close friends whenever I throw out my musing thoughts. I have a lot of weird thoughts that weird out my friends in particular, but I'm taking more about musings than strange statements such as "flaming pants not suitable for wearing". That is either a conclusion, nonsense, common sense or all of the above. I'm talking about statements that begin a train of thought, statements like "it seems kind of silly that all grocery stores offer these super savings bonus cards".

I discovered that what I'm trying to accomplish with such a statement is not the proving of a hypothesis, in this case that super saving cards being offered by all major grocery stores is silly, but the traversing of a train of thought that may or may not lead to anything useful. I'm not interested in whether or not it actually is silly for major grocery stores such as Weis and Giant and Stop&Shop to all offer super savings cards, I'm interested in continuing a train of thought as to why it may or may not be silly.

That's where the disconnect happens. I'm working in a purely theoretical sense on how it seems silly that all these grocery stores offer bonus cards because the idea for having a bonus card seems to be a way of trying to get a person to shop at your store over someone else's, but when all the grocery stores have them, and just about everybody has the bonus cards attached to their car key chain, it seems defeating of the purpose. The person I'm talking to is not aware of what I'm trying to accomplish, and to top it off is likely to have already have an empirical answer to why grocery stores still have bonus savings cards, despite the fact that the question, "Why do grocery stores still have bonus savings cards?" wasn't even asked.

As I become amused with the idea that, even were we to remove all the bonus cards one store would inevitably introduce one again resulting in all other stores doing likewise and bringing us back to square one, the poor unfortunate who was given the initial thought and most of these later ones is probably at this point attempting to disprove the notion that there is any incentive for grocery stores to do away with bonus cards, and is doubly likely to get frustrated when I mention the point at the beginning of this paragraph and still seem intent on discussing things. In the mean time, I'm getting confused and (if the debate is getting heated enough) frustrated (because I don't entirely understand what there is to be angry about, I'm working in a purely theoretical sense on a rather trivial subject the conclusion of which will neither be life changing nor reshape the industry of grocery shopping) as well. I begin to feel attacked for simply trying to think, and think beyond the bounds of assumption.

By the time I realize that genuine anger on the part of my fellow is emerging, and genuine confusion on my part, my thought train has been derailed by my continuous attempts to pull my friend onto it. Even if I try and bring them in by specifying things such as "hypothetically", at this point all I get is "but that's not how it works" or "life isn't that way". I've become set on trying to complete my thought train, which isn't going anywhere and in some cases if moving steadily backward, and my friend is now completely set on pulling me into reality. Regardless of whether either of us has true knowledge of how the system works (and since I don't have any friends who have ever mentioned working in marketing, grocery stores, or the manufacture of bonus cards I doubt any of us have special knowledge that sets us above each other. I certainly don't), to me the thought is what counts, and to them it's what they regard to be the truth.

If either of us noticed earlier what the other was trying to accomplish, we could have slipped into the other's mode and never had an argument in the first place. The disconnect is I assume that my friend is going to come at my thought in the same way I am, purely as speculative and will do as I do in going everywhere the mind pleases with it, while my friend assumes I'm attempting to empirically define bonus savings cards as a useless waste of plastic. Even if my friend realizes I'm working in theoretical terms, they aren't about to realize that I'm not interested in empirically proving anything (at least not unless a very interesting and sound conclusion is reached). On the other side of the coin, even if I realize they are bringing an empirical approach to what is supposed to be philosophical, I misjudge their intent as well thinking they are misunderstanding my points and not my motives.

In the end, I've realized this a good three months after the last argument I had with a close friend transpired. You can probably guess what it was about. Not exactly an entirely helpful conclusion well after I've done a bang up job of convincing people I haven't the least bit of a fundamental understanding of reality.

What I was looking for didn't require anything of my friends but the understanding of my motives, which is understandably hard to understand. It's not like I know their motives for everything they do. I note this because it is intrinsically important, and because it removes the presupposition that in order to have engaged me in my task of traveling down a train of thought like "is one really the loneliest number" you need be as analytical and mathematically inclined as I am.

While my thoughts concerning the loneliness of one came out very mathematical, had I worked this out with a friend's aid as opposed to flying solo the result might have had a far different flavor. I know empirically that there is at least one person who hardly has a mathematically cell in his body who has engaged with me on all sorts of thoughts, deep and rather silly, in exactly the way I look for. I run on reason, logic and the stringing together of well ordered sense, while he works largely on intuition and more uncertain realms. Yet, he more than anyone else is able to work in worlds consisting of, "Were it as you say, this would be the case" to which I responsd, "with that the case, we can say this is true" and so on.

Sadly, between an obsession with Dr. Who and the necessary amount of attention one must set aside for a girlfriend, our time spent musing over all things big and small has either been non-existant or related to the latest shenanigans of the resident lunatics of the right and left, and all realms inbetween. As fun as exploring the theoretical hellholes the truly nutty portions of our populace produce, and the alternatives, is it would be nice on occaision to simply think on statements like "the random attribution of privacy to specific sectors of body and skin seems rather impractical and ludicrous" on a whim.

In conclusion, I'd like apologize to the various college peoples who have had heated arguments with me because of the disconnect I mentioned, and anyone else for that matter. Hopefully, the one guy who is able to think as I do without the polluting factor of having to think about being purely theoretical and I will be able to do some major catch up work on all of our philosophizing we've failed to do since freshman year. I know we did some sophomore year, but not enough. Just like sleep, eh?

Speaking of which...

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