Attributes of Thought: Stickiness and Insistence

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The stickiness of a thought, how hard it is to dismiss. Stickiness is stickiness: it’s not a good or bad thing but because it is something that it is hard for us to exercise control over — if something is sticky it doesn’t really respond to out desires about how it behave as much as something that’s not as sticky — it can seem .. a little sticky.

I’ll try to give you a good demo of a good sticky thought.

I’ll take the veal skeleton.

.. Pause ..

.. Pause ..


Yeah, it’s still with you, isn’t it?! (laughs) It sticks around awhile.


Vegan version. Ahem.

Soy arteest.


Stickiness can be an art. All thinking can be an art. But I hope an example like that, which is not much as art, gives you a little bit of an insight into how much fun it is to view your own actions and speech this way.


What a shame that I have so many hours of things to say about how poorly all of this can be done — as the police follow me down the street. A shame to have those hours, if you think of beauty, if you think of painting, and then you think of sculpture, and then you think of dancing, if you think of poetry, if you think of music–

And then you think of thinking–

When you think  of the astounding beauty of the things you can intentionally create in the minds of others, through speech, through action–

What a shame.

Try to pick attributes of thought that are relatively static and hard to fake. I’m not sure what they are static for. But categories where the members of each category share the same values for as many of these attributes as they can: so I want to say that if I divide things up by how sticky they are, the really sticky thoughts are going to be in one of these two or three categories, most probably, and I know that those two or three categories are also going to have certain values for other attributes — attributes I’ve found really sticky thoughts usually have in the past: a certain sense of humor, a habit of leading to certain kinds of decisions which have certain kinds of outcomes; they make this much sense; they have this much validity, etc. and when I find a sticky thought, I can really quickly say “ok, into that group you go” and then I can predict all of the rest of these attributes. That’s the goal here.  And that way I can quickly infer things about the thought; as or before even I’m thinking it — without having to examine each thought and make these measurements. I only need one or two values and the rest are probably what they probably are.


Now some thoughts don’t appear to be sticky enough. We might find this is most common with great big ideas, complex ideas, that are not quite beyond us; discoveries that we are pretty sure we are capable of discovering, but if we look away from them they seem to vanish, or slip outside our grasp. Other thoughts are just lame, or they’re not interesting– they’re not that sticky. But some thoughts are, whether or not they are crafted to be that way, their nature is such that they get thought for awhile.

Sometimes you feel like there might be a little bit of cheating involved in thoughts that are sticky. Some thoughts self-promote. This is kind of frowned upon. I’m not sure by whom, but by someone. We think: “Here, I am an idea from your conscience and I will lead you to the right path in life, so don’t so that.” Or “Your best self says…” That’s self-promotion, on the part of a thought.

Thoughts are not, like Richard Dawkin’s memes do, in general supposed to think very much about how much anybody thinks them. Thoughts which are good enough to be thought will be thought as much as anybody needs to think them, guaranteed. So beyond stickiness then, we have another attribute, of insistence. Which is really a narrower case of a broader attribute, the quote-unquote goal of the thought, if you can imagine thought having a goal.


Insistence though, is a reflection of a thought.  A thought that’s self-promoting maybe could be said to be demonstrating a little bit of insistence, but that’s not quite exactly what I mean by this. A thought that is insistent is a thought that is making demands on you, rather than making suggestions or informing you. This thought says “Do this.” They typically make you quite aware of the time factor. Some thoughts are immediate. They require– they require according to them at least; you are not required to require it too — but the thoughts themselves require that you do something immediately. Often this is to panic.

An insistent thought might require that you exit whatever situation is causing the panic, right away. It’s not a suggestion: ‘Hey, maybe we should get out of here.’ It’s not ‘Maybe we can wait five minutes and get out of here;’ It’s ‘Get out of here right now.’

Insistence is a good attribute to notice, because, like lag, we can adjust for the insistence of thoughts. Beyond just using insistence to categorize, once we’re aware of the values it takes, we can correct for them. ‘Well, I know that panic is insistent, so I’m going to wait ten seconds to see if I still feel like I should leave the situation immediately, and if I do after ten seconds, then I will. Or I’m at least going to check and see if the situation is as dangerous as panic is suggesting it is before I respond to its requirement, because I know that panic is insistent.’

Likewise, some of the neatest thoughts we’ll ever have are just barely suggestions. And maybe this is me personifying things too much, but imagine if you had a good friend that noone ever listened to, the sort of way that he would act after he made yet another suggestion. He wasn’t going to say anything, because noone ever listens to him– he doesn’t say that, though; he pipes up– and then you dismiss it, because he’s that guy.  

If you imagine what his reaction would be, when you again dismiss his suggestion, if you could bottle it– you can sometimes catch yourself thinking just this. In the background. Sometimes maybe.

Well, fine then. Nobody listens to me.

When you are not trying to say anything out loud. Which is interesting.

Who is not being heard then?

I’d like to know.


So we can adjust for that too: we can think, Hey, there went one of those little suggestions I give myself that I never pay any attention to. Anyway, carrying on.

I like to imagine — I made this image of the pool of thought in the world, yesterday — and I like to imagine that part of our purpose here on earth is to maintain the pool of thought in the world, to make it clean, healthy… Wouldn’t it then make sense to reward thoughts that don’t put demands on us?

Well, you know I have this panicking emotional terror concerning my personal relationships. I think probably I’m going to listen to that right now. And yeah, of course, I could listen to Michael Jackson, do the dishes and go to sleep, I know that. But anyway.

It’s like rewarding the bad kid, in that case. Shouldn’t we reward the good kid?


You can imagine that — talk about self-promoting — thoughts that insist don’t give you time to process them before they demand action. What do these thoughts have to hide?

Well, can we think about this and then make a decision?

No, it has to happen now.

Thoughts that demand that you act before you have time to weigh out everything are trying to block out the competition. Like a guy at a bar who’s hitting on a girl, who stands up really tall and blocks her view of all the rest of the guys in the bar. You might ask, why are you doing that? I mean, if you were the hottest guy in here, you wouldn’t have to bother, am I right?*


So that attribute sort of indicates potential problems. Sticky is fun; insistent indicates a problem. Cheers!





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