Friday, January 29, 2010

Frequency of Thought

A table after Nicholson Baker's character in The Mezzanine
Subject of Thought Number of Times Thought Occurred per Year (descending order)
Family (living) 1825
Family (deceased) 730
Body fat 520
Coffee 420
Dreams 360
Writing a poem 300
People who write more poems, jealousy of 280
The movements of birds, curiosity of 220
"Make Your Life" 200
Moving to the city 180
Moving to the country 180
Backyard chickens, or the possibility of a pet duck 180
Pens 150
Losing my mind, fear of 125
Friends, smarter than me 120
Footnotes and marginalia = happiness 90
Insensitive people 81
Flowers and weeds that grow out of cracks in the sidewalk 70
Sandburg's drunken uncles = houses around here 50
Trees against a dusk sky, beauty of 45
Piggyback rides 32
Peeling a chestnut, joy of 21
Candle flickers, fire flames 20
Mitral Valve Prolapse, anxiety of 18
Cognition, or the brain as machine 15
Kindness, my being referred to as kind and a mild resentment for it* 12
Hotel lobbies 8
The Doppler Effect 6
Friends - does it matter if I have few? 5
Minty taste on envelope seal 3
HTML tags 1
Whether or not that note I left in the floor is still there 1
Driveway sealer, scent of .5

There is no way for this list to be accurate, because thought is so fleeting and changing, but it was an interesting exercise to see how even as I wrote the list, my mind was wandering. "Pens? Yes, pens. I forgot them, and they fit more in the middle of the list not at the bottom."

* This has been bothering me for some time, which makes little sense because I consider kindness to be one of the most important things in life, so why would I not want to be considered kind? I think the root of it may have to do with how we view success in our culture. Successful people tend to be unkind and ruthless. Kindness has a flaccidity. This is ridiculous and I should get over it.


Mike Lindgren said...

What a marvellous list! In reflective moments I feel that kindness is the most important principle in life, but I am disappointed how rarely I live up to it in reality. It probably does have something to do with the perception issue.

Kristen said...

Kindness is stronger if you call it compassion.

Nice list. We definitely think of different things.

gary barwin said...

Fantastic list. If kindness had a more sporty adjective along with it: radical kindness. Extreme kind. Creative kindness. And especially: Quantum kindness - kindness is always in more than one place at once, and is often changed by how it is observed.

You make really good point about how our culture views kindness as weakness, as passive. I think of all the strength many traditions glean from compassion.

It's non-violent disobedience against the dark.