At the moment I’m in a frame of mind I don’t recognise. That’s a good thing. Here’s why:
Maybe my mind isn’t superimposing pre-existing interpretations of similar data from the past. That would imply that it’s perceiving things (reality, situations, whatever) as new encounters without precedent (let’s call this the ‘first instance’). That’s so cool, because even though loads of philosophies talk about this, science tells us that the mind works by constructing frameworks of reference that we use to understand the world (let’s call this the ‘second instance’). Science doesn’t like unprecedented stuff; science seems to believe that the universe is constructed of a framework of precedents (the laws of physics) just waiting to be discovered. If we believe the scientific viewpoint it makes it easy to regard the philosophical (aka spiritual aka metaphysical) viewpoint as idealistic gibberish based on wishful thinking.
In the first instance, this experience of unprecedented newness would be constantly shifting, moment to moment, in a thing of perpetual unprecedentedness. If that’s so, it’s pointless working anything out because no moment will ever be repeated and we will never need to use any of our interpretation. So why bother? We would only be cluttering our minds with useless junk.
In the second instance, it means reality is experienced as a series of reruns, and we all know how boring that can be (unless it’s Friends).
On the other hand, here I am in Starbucks and it looks like the same old, same old, so maybe I’m talking rubbish. Argh, I hate it when thoughts don’t last as long as the length of time it takes to get a coffee ordered and switch the PC on.
Another good thing about perceiving situations as unprecedented is that we are more likely to take them on their own merits instead of imposing a character/quality upon them. We are less likely to have expectations and are more likely to wait to see what happens instead of predicting outcomes and bringing prepared responses into the situation. That’s a good thing because our behaviour will affect not only our perceptions of our experiences, it will affect the way reality unfolds because of what we are sending out for the external world to react to. Or is it necessarily a good thing if things unfold without any control on our part, anyway – they’ll just unfold differently is all.
So, in situations we perceive as unprecedented, how do we know how to behave? Good question. I don’t the answer to that. Most of the time it seems as if we react first and think about our reactions/behaviour after the event. So, is all our behaviour compulsive? Sometimes we regret reactions we later perceive as hasty or impulsive. Sometimes we hold back and perceive ourselves as slow or inhibited. We often wish we had reacted differently, with hindsight. Whatever, our actions and/or lack of actions seem to occur before we have any conscious thought about controlling our behaviour, and that’s why I’m wondering if all our behaviour is compulsive (not just the emotionally-charged stuff) and therefore beyond our control – even being in control may be beyond our control.
Of course, sometimes we do have the opportunity to plan our reactions. That’s easier to do when we believe we have an understanding of the situation we are responding to, but far less so when we perceive a situation as unprecendented. Then we haven’t got a clue what to do! Nothing is right and nothing is wrong, so how do we decide? I suppose we just have to take a punt and see what happens… we could flip a coin, pick a card, check the status of the solar system…
Another possibility is that this sensation of unfamiliar mental territory is just an illusion. But then, illusions are actual experiences and that makes them real. If the moment passed before I had the opportunity of writing it down it means I’m intellectualising about a memory instead of describing an experience in progress, and that’s pretty dodgy in terms of describing real reality (as opposed to imagined reality) (isn’t all reality imagined, though?). Anyway, the writing down of an experience-in-progress would be a different experience because of the addition of the activity of the writing.
It’s all very slippery.