An Idea Isn’t Mine Just Because It Pops Into My Head: Aphorisms on Language, Thought, Death, Happiness, Love, and Other Topics

By Adam J. Pearson

Most views are conventional; we say “I believe this,” but we really mean “my culture believes this and it is speaking its views through me.”

Sometimes, “our” ideas are just other people’s ideas whose sources we have forgotten.

Speech is a combination of remembered words and grammatical rules reshuffled to respond to stimuli.

Stimuli trigger associated memories; they activate interlinked synaptic networks with possibly relevant information.  Our brains group and associate stimuli to ease information recall.  After all, it’s most practical to think “run!” when you see a bomb’s timer ticking down.

Our brains show us ‘pop-ups’ that relate to what we are presently experiencing. “You experienced something like this before,” says the brain, “is this relevant? How about this? Will this help?” So, we remember.


Why should I believe that a thought is “mine” just because it happens to arise in my mind?

A whole lot of nonsensical ideas come up  in my mind alongside the reasonable ones.  My thoughts are just thoughts appearing in “me.”  Many of these thoughts were spoken by others, or instilled in me by culture.  The fact that they now pop up in me does not mean they are mine.

Language is the operating system we use to surf the web of life.

Thought is not your enemy unless you turn it against yourself.

Thought is a tool, a lens, and a map, not a world or a home.


At first, people and things are neutral to us.  Then, concepts, cultural categories, and experiences place these people and things in contexts that define their meaning.  Then we feel that this man is my enemy and this woman is my mother, this experience is positive and this other one is negative, this text means something and this other text is gibberish.  Before they were placed in context, these things were all one and the same.

Pure sensation is processed through our cognitive interpretation systems and the output is meaning, perception.

You can’t think yourself out of a thought box using only the tools that are already in that box.  You need a new idea or a new experience to slash a hole in your box and let you out.  Just be careful that the new idea or experience doesn’t create a new box to replace the old.

People resist change because the familiar is comfortable.

Routine is simply practical; it orders the business and experience of life, reduces unpredictability, and sets out a game plan.

Conversation is a game.  Sadly, some people seem to believe that it is a matter of life and death.  In fact, it is only a matter of life.

As Ludwig Wittgenstein sometimes pointed out, language games can be fun; just remember you’re only playing.

Death never enters into life and life never enters into death.  While you are alive, death is not present; while you are dead, life is not present.  So let life be life and death be death and take your path one step at a time.

Death is not annihilation, but transformation.

Existence is perpetual transformation.

Love that binds has an ulterior motive.

There’s a love without conditions, motives, or even reasons; you don’t fall into it — it falls into you.

Selflessness is sometimes the mask selfishness wears to appear socially acceptable.

Holding on to an impermanent and ever-changing reality is like clinging to sand while it falls through your fingers.

People worry a great deal about their weight, but weight is really only a function of where you are.  Earth weight and moon weight are very different things, and our ‘weight’ when freely floating in outer space is something else altogether.

Procrastination is choosing pleasant, present diversions over inevitable labor.

To place conditions on our happiness is to hammer nails into its coffin.

To place conditions on our happiness is to guarantee that it will not last.

To postpone happiness is to ensure we never reach it; tomorrow’s happiness never comes. We can only have today’s. And today’s is all we need.

What’s wrong with feeling fulfilled by things as they are, however they are, here and now?

Some people tell me that we must accept everything as it is and not act to change the world.  Others tell me that we must act to change the world and never be content with the way things are.  I say they both have it wrong.  Why be so extreme? First accept things as they are, then see what can be done.

The epiphanies and insights that utterly blow us away and transform the whole current of our lives are almost never complicated; rather, they are so simple that when they hit, we wonder how we ever could have missed them.

Source of Images: Various photographers in Smashing Magazine.

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