I was going to write about this last night, but every time I tried starting, the words just wouldn’t happen. Let’s see what occurs this time.
I often have minor revelations while travelling on the London Underground. Even though my tube journey between home and work is only ten minutes or so, it’s amazing what thoughts go through my mind in that relatively short space of time. Yesterday evening, as I was travelling home in a fairly empty carriage, I couldn’t help overhearing the two women opposite me. I reckon they were postgraduate students, and they were obviously discussing some research they were doing. It was a sociological topic — more than that I can’t be certain of. But what immediately struck me was their enthusiasm for talking about big, complex ideas.
And I suddenly felt really, really stupid.
A few days ago, I mentioned how I increasingly hate the fact that I can seemingly go for days without investigating news, without knowing what’s going on in the wider world. And I used to consider myself so aware of social issues, politics, world events, whatever you call it. In the same way, listening to these two people talking on the tube train, I suddenly realised (and I know this sounds incredibly pretentious), that it has been simply ages since I’ve taken part in an analytical discussion like this — a discussion which really challenges my brain, changes my preconceptions, makes me think laterally.
I’m aware of the many thoughts that challenge my mind (the emotional part of my brain) — indeed, as I’ve mentioned here before, unfortunately I often tend to be the type of person who is a bit too emotional and tends to turn things over in my mind too much. And, of course, there are the daily processes that my brain, your brain and everyone’s brain goes through every day (from knowing which shoe goes on which foot, to being able to read a train timetable). I’m not saying, either, that I live a life totally devoid of any intelligent discussion — I get to hear a lot of interesting and sometimes damn profound ideas. But it does tend to be quite insular, concerned with one’s wider circle of acquaintances and immediate environment.
It’s when I’m challenged to think more deeply and really use my analytical brain that I really come unstuck. Here are two recent examples. If you’ve been reading Wherever You Are a long time, you may remember the slight saga I had over getting hold of a copy of Naomi Klein’s book on anti-corporatism, No Logo, and being keen to read it after all the plaudits it had received. Well, I’ve had the book for a good two months now, and I’ve only just finished the introduction. At the moment, it all seems just far too complex and full of ideas for me to get my head around. I have failed to persevere with it. And the second example? A couple of days ago, in our office, a discussion started about the planned London Underground strikes in February. A couple of years ago, I would have dived in there with my forthright views about whether or not the strike should happen. But instead, I came out with some fairly flippant and ridiculous comment (I don’t recall the details), which temporarily pissed off the colleague who had started the discussion. Needless to say, I then retired back under my headphones with embarrassment.
I realise how utterly pretentious and self-obsessed this all sounds, and I don’t really know where it’s going. But you wouldn’t come here if you wanted beautifully-formed writing with a beginning, middle and an end, and with a specific point to make. Maybe the time has come to put my brain back into training again, and start thinking a bit longer, deeper and further.