Monday, March 8, 2010


I recently joined Toastmasters International. My first speech is an icebreaker. I need to tell the club about myself so that they can appreciate the context of my later speeches. From attempting to write the speech I generated a great deal of material that, well fascinating, completely ignored the question at hand. The most interesting portion was a phenomenological description of abstract thought. I think that telling a group of people this tells them who I am, and in a sense it does but not directly. Through this exercise I learned a great deal about how I think about people and why it is useful to tell a person things like your birthday and your maiden name, which I had always before considered useless information the purpose of which is to make conversation for the sake of conversation instead of communication.

The first time I remember thinking it was summer. I was wearing nothing but a really big shirt that went down to my knees. I think I swore off dresses sometime before that, and this was clearly not a dress. I was in the forest, I think, and thinking about myself and probably the fact that I needed to go and take a bath because my hair was full of dirt and twigs from wandering in the forest. I have an image of thought at that moment. I do not quite remember the content but there is a certain way that thinking looks. You take objects and separate them in your mind, and order them, and draw them together. These objects are fuzzy rays of light, or circles and lines or real things and concepts.

For example I can think about a try. You have this branch. Now separate it from it's name. You have the name of tree and the tree itself. Now separate it from it's shape. Separate it from what it means to you. Have any of you succeeded here?

I can't, really. I try to pull apart these things and they stick together. This is what abstract thought is for me and what it might be for everyone, separating things that cannot be moved with the hands. Although it does feel like touching and feeling them.

No comments: