March 11, 2005

Subconscious life

Ever played chess? You know, the great strategic game of chess, the one which all the brainy people play? Of course you have. And so you also know how chess is supposed to be played — you look at the board, figure out what moves you can make, try to choose the most beneficial one while all the time trying to out-think your opponent. It’s a beautiful way to live.

But the problem is I can’t do that. When I play chess, I expect to ‘know’ the right move. I want to look at the board and literally ‘see’ what’s right — and not spend any time thinking about it at all. Hence the fact that I suck at chess.

You see, while I’m all for rational thought, I rather prefer ‘subconscious’ thought more. People usually refer to what I’m going for here as ‘being in the zone’. Most people I’ve seen who are good at something seem to get lost in what they’re good at.

Take me for example — I like to think that I’m an adequate enough programmer. Whenever I’m really into solving some little programming problem, I tend to space out. My friends can attest to the fact that I almost can’t be distracted while I’m thinking about something — when in fact I never even realize what I’m thinking about. I just type whatever comes naturally, so it’s really difficult for me to debug code later on.

And if I do get distracted, I get really cranky. I snap at whoever broke the peace — once I even yelled at a teacher for disturbing me while I was coding.

But to be honest, I’m not very good at any of this stuff. I’d love to reach a point where I can do things without thinking about them, so I try to train myself. It’s the little things that matter — doodling in a pointless manner during almost each lecture and hoping for a pattern to emerge; playing CS on my comp without giving it any thought at all, just reacting to what happens; listening to music while reading something important, paying attention to only the sounds and hoping to remember what I’m reading when the time comes; et cetera. There’s probably a conscious limit placed on our minds to keep us from absorbing too much information, but I don’t think there is any such limit in the subconscious mind.

Of course I do most of these things because I enjoy them, but I also appreciate the way they affect my mind. Oh, and I forgot to mention — staring at chess boards, just looking at them and hoping to see a solution.

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