Confessions of a Recovering Thinker
[I wrote this article for the first time for my Btech Magazine back in 2002, i think. I edited some of it and re-wrote it to suit MBA when I came to Bangalore. This is the MBA version. I chose this version not because this is better. Actually, I think the BTech material was better. The fact is, I can’t seem to find it. I am pretty careless. I got the base idea from some small joke on the net. This one is slightly longish. But I think you can enjoy it still :)]
It was like any other day. I was just sitting in class and, as usual, drifting off into the customary nap when suddenly it happened. I began to think!!! I began to think about the sky, God, electronics, religion… I began to think about everything. I thought it was just a temporary glitch. But I continued thinking the next day… and the day after. Everyday my thoughts expanded. My friends and lecturers started noticing. One day the professor called me aside.
“Hamish, you’ve been acting peculiar lately. Let me ask you something and I expect an honest answer. Have you been thinking?”
“Yes, Sir”, I confessed.
“I feared as much”, he muttered, shaking his head.
“But don’t worry. This can be cured.”
“I appreciate your concern, sir, but thinking doesn’t bother me that much”.
“What?” He stared in disbelief. “You have to understand, my boy, that yours is a world where you do not think. You perform. You need to be a machine. You need to be efficient and reliable. You need to work mechanically. How do you expect to accomplish all that if you let your mind wander into thoughts? The society demands that you should not think. You cannot afford to! If you are lucky enough, you might one day enter a corporate world. You might be asked to manage large firms and take important decisions. If you continue this dreadful thinking of yours, what are you going to do, then, huh?”
I nodded in agreement. Yes, today the world requires efficient but monotonous work. There simply is no room for thought. The thought process is a luxury not everyone can afford. Graduates are snatched into posts requiring the lowest amount of time spent on thoughts. And the training begins. You are not promoted until and unless you demonstrate a complete separation from thinking. The trend of the hour, the mushrooming call centres go so far as to prepare predictive scripts for their operators to work on. We are expected to work with as little cranial involvement as possible.
“And”, he continued, “You know that thinking and education do not mix. Why don’t you become part of the class? Damn it, we raise managers here, not thinkers!! Either write down verbatim what I lecture from the prescribed books, or go to sleep. You have to stop thinking. It’s bothering the class… and it’s bothering me. So, what do you say? Will you stop thinking?”
“I… I’ll think about it, sir”.
He yelled something that is beyond the scope of my vocabulary as he went away with clenched fists high in the air. It’s not that I didn’t want to stop thinking. I did. Who wouldn’t? It’s just that it had become very difficult for me to quit. It was extremely habit forming. I was becoming an addict. I thought about the beginning of life. I thought about existence. I thought about watches. I thought about why I couldn’t stop thinking. One thought led to another and pretty soon, I was thinking all the time!
I was thinking in class hours. I was thinking at home. I was thinking during lunch hour. I began thinking to pass the time. I became a compulsive thinker.
Once I reached class and thought aloud “What are we really doing here?”. My classmates started shunning me. I saw one close friend copying feverishly the lecture notes for the day. I went to her, closed the book and asked her if she knew the true meaning of life… I lost one close friend that way. People started avoiding me like the plague.
One day, I was summoned by a senior professor. As I entered the room, he appraised me with a raised eyebrow and motioned me to sit down.
After some thought, I did.
“Hamish Joy, Batch of 2006?”
“I hear you are a heavy thinker”
“It’s a lie, sir. I do think, yes. But only on occasions”. I lied.
“Do you know that the university you are studying under is ICFAI University?”
“Yes, sir. I do”
“Do you also know”, he continued as he leant back on his chair, eyes uncompromisingly fixed upon mine, “that our university specifically forbids any student to think on campus?”
I gulped. “No, sir”
“I don’t care what you do outside campus. But in here, you have to follow university regulations. Why don’t you follow the good examples set by your teachers and lecturers? I can say with pride and certainty that none of us have ever let our minds accommodate thoughts of any kind. Why can’t you be normal? Why do you have to think?”
“I …. I’m trying my best, sir.”
“It’s not good enough. You’ve a bad influence on the rest of the students. Even the lecturers are getting disturbed. If you do not put an immediate stop to this outrageous behaviour”, he sighed, “I’m afraid I’m gonna have to expel you.”
That gave me a lot to think about.
Thinking soon became an obsession. I just had to think. I lost all my friends. They would hold whispered meetings and scatter when I approached them. With subtle hints they always managed to push me away to seclusion. I was becoming a social outcast. In seclusion, my thoughts began to expand. My mind craved for thoughts, and that craving began to grow and grow. I began thinking about the universe, youth, heaven, about why Anu Malik hasn’t been shot dead yet.
I thought in my sleep. I thought in my dreams. I had thoughts about thinking. I thought in English. I thought in Malayalam. I even thought in Hindi a couple of times. The addiction was complete.
Every moment I could spare, I would rush to a library; take books of prose, fiction, philosophy, and the like. And I would think about it for a while. One day, it got to the point when the librarian came to me with a stern look, and said.
“Sir, you’ve had too much”.
“Hmm… I don’t think so.”
“Sir, you can’t handle anymore. This is your third one”, he said, pointing to my book by Keats
“I am used to this, okay? Bring me something by Plato”.
“You have had enough”, he snapped, “You will have to leave. Please”.
“You can’t throw me out! Just one more. Just one more by Plato… please!” I begged.
“I am sorry but no. Sir, you have a thinking problem. And it’s getting worse. Give philosophy and prose a rest. Read some management books, for crying out loud. Your addiction is very unsettling!”
“Hey! I am NOT addicted, okay? I can stop thinking any time I choose. I just need to read some Plato for now. I’m… err… celebrating an occassion”
“You’re into denial now. Please stop thinking. I’ve seen people who occasionally succumb to thought. But you’ve been thinking continuously through three books now. Nobody can endure more of that. You have to face your thinking problem… See a doctor”.
He was right. I had to see a psychologist. Why hadn’t I thought of that? So I got up and started to leave.
“Can you make it on your own? Should I send someone with you?”
“No, thanks. I’ll be fine.”
“You’re not driving, are you?”
“No. I don’t have a car”.
“Good. You know what they say. Never think and drive.”
Dr. D.C. Sess heard my wretched story with sympathy written all over him.
“You’ve been under a lot of strain, Hamish.”
“I think you’re right.”
“Don’t think. Get civilized. Thinking is a destructive process that taxes the brain. It wastes time and energy. It channels disruptive and mal-progressive energy patterns that annihilate the normal, accepted work patterns. What you should do is relax. Adjust with society. Go with the flow. Keep all you thought aside. Nip them in the bud.” He smiled.
“In the… In the bud? Don’t you think that maybe…”
“No, Hamish, i don’t…”
“Can’t I just reduce my thoughts gradually?”
“It’s far too risky”
“So you think that I shouldn’t think at all?”
“Yes, Hamish, I do. I think you should embrace society. Try to fit in. I think your thinking problem has to be resolved to meet the standards demanded by society at large. I think you should control your craving for thought. I think you should manage your withdrawal symptoms. I think you can… I think… I think… damn it. It’s contagious. Now you’ve got me thinking as well. I’m thinking… I’m thinking that…”
And the voice trailed on as he stared at the wall behind me.
I recognized the early symptoms. I jumped to my feet and shook him by the shoulder.
“Doctor, you’ve been thinking!”
“Have I? Good heavens. I’m feeling a bit confused. I was just about to …” He got lost in thought again. I shook him up again.
“Doctor, are you alright?”
“I … I think so.”
I bit my lip.
“I…” he continued, “I think we should continue our session next week. I have to think about a couple of things. I think…”
Dr. Sess never recovered. He went on thinking and continues to think to this very day. I heard that he went home that night, switched off the TV, and asked his startled wife whether she knew about the futile nature of her existence. The divorce is due to be settled by the end of October.
And I couldn’t help but feel responsible. I had to do something before I ruined other lives. What if I made thinkers out of many others? Ultimately we’ll have a nation of thinkers, and civilization, as we know it, would come to an end!
One fortuitous morning, I saw the ad for Thinkers Anonymous (TA). I signed up, and on the first day the president of TA, Mr.Bull. S. Hit addressed us, the thinkers, as well as the visitors. He answered our weary queries by assuring us that TA can help us clear our mind forever.
“First of all, you have to say to yourself ‘I have a thinking problem’. It isn’t an unnatural trait. . And what’s more”, he smiled, “it is absolutely curable. You don’t believe me? Well, it is true. Let me illustrate with a celebrity example. Do you know that the American president, George W. Bush used to be a thinker?”
Startled gasps filled the room as everyone, thinkers and visitors alike, shook their heads in disbelief.
“Yes!” he continued, “it’s true. But I am happy to say that after undergoing treatment at a TA facility similar to ours, he was completely cured before he took office. Yes, ladies and gentleman, since his recovery not even a fleeting thought has passed through his mind. I am proud to say that thanks to TA, his mind”, he paused for dramatic effect, “is completely empty.”
Cheers and applause filled the room and the orator left with a standing ovation. It was a very emotional moment. The audience exuded tears of joy by the bucket. His speech had brought us hope. We still had a chance at being empty minded! And merely knowing that we had a chance gave more comfort than one could imagine. A second chance at life. A chance to belong!! God bless TA. I attended TA regularly, where we discussed the problems associated with thinking, and about how we avoided thinking since our last session, how to combat thought-processes the world over, and things like that. We progressed rapidly. Within a matter of months, I was even able to watch Hindi movies. That was the ultimate sign! I was finally getting cured.
I got my friends back. The professors praise the way I crawled my way back from hell, and were pleased to note me snoring away at class again. To this day, they quote my recovery with pride to students, relatives, acquaintances, and even strangers.
As for me, I am completely cured now. I am thankfully back to my cheerful thoughtless, mindless, monotonous self again….
At least I think so…