Random thought

A customer today used a very interesting metaphor to describe “random thoughts.”

What I was calling Random Thoughts were thoughts that occur for no reason whatsoever. There is no discernible chain of causes leading to a person having that thought.

The other day, while out walking, I brushed some sweat off my nose and for a brief second smelled a scent that evoked some scenes from my childhood, when I had also smelled that scent. I would say this is not an example of random thought, since it is very clear how the present has evoked something specific from the past.

A random thought is — I’m organizing something on the shelf and suddenly an image appears of a road I drove down a couple years ago, and it’s impossible to see a chain of causes that leads from what I’m doing to what I’m thinking. There is simply nothing about my activity organizing that seems to evoke this memory of the road.

Well, the customer’s analogy was to watching your laundry go around in the drier. You’re watching the clothing tumbling about indiscriminately, nothing in particular striking you about it, but then suddenly there’s this one sock that appears in the window and it just gets stuck there for a while. Everything else is moving along in its usual jumble but this random sock hangs in there for an unnaturally long time.

That, said the customer, is your “random thought”. There is some reason it got there, of course, but what would be the value in knowing it? The “random thought” is a bi-product or symptom of our over-turning thoughts, and totally insignificant, a statistical necessity, was I believe the customer’s idea.

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