Shaping a Thought

I condemned a recent draft to eternal damnation.

It is easy to write impulsively – what we often call spontaneous writing. It often makes for good reading. But it has its limitations. Like a flight with failed engines it lands with a thud, a lump of battered metal, yet tangible as can be. It isn’t a smooth flight, with a smooth landing on the tarmac, its perspective complete and intact. If we linger in and around the thought for a bit, we could give it a much broader sense. Not a general sense, a broader sense. A wider PoV

For a long time I have been intrigued by Plato’s definition of shape. Before you read further, it may be worthwhile to think about it for a while.

What is shape?

Writes, The Imugi:

And like everything else, definition implies borders.

Now I have dwelled on this line and the paragraph that it heralds, for quite a while. Recent events and thoughts around them have probably helped shape meaning. The worst definition we can ever create – is for thinking. That definition is often called process. It is not, yet we use it as such. Beyond a wide channel of a guideline, a process isn’t anything more. And it never can be the definition of a thought. Of all things that can never take shape – it is thought and the ability to think. I have, over some time now, come to hate the phrase – thought process. It reeks of the rotting death of creativity and intelligence.

Here is the entire paragraph that has knotted the neurons to numbness since this post about the Philosophy of Blogging was written:

And like everything else, definition implies borders. As it becomes more clear just what this blog is, it also becomes more clear as to what it is not. It’s like Zhuangzi’s story about the musician: before any song is played, before any strings are touched, there’s a strange kind of perfection. It is the perfection of potential; any number of songs are present in potentia. Once you begin to play, however, that changes. One possibility from the infinite possibilities is selected; it is actualized. And once it is, the possibility of the others vanishes. There are borders now, and with borders there is differentiation. The musician is playing this tune, and not that one. Whereas before all of them blended together in the silence which contains the potential for all kinds of sound.

Shape is the limit of a solid, says Plato. I like to think of it more as, shape is the limit of form. (PDF of the entire dialogue: Plato’s Meno)

Is there, then, an entity that we could call a “well-formed thought”? I do not think so, what is well formed is the action, which is a derivative of that thought. The original thought itself is formless, shapeless and therefore limitless. A process imposes restrictions on further flight to a thought – crashes it down to the ground in a lump of often half-cooked tangible action. Like the tune that was played as against the one that wasn’t, we have a thought that was prematurely brought to life and made into default lumpy action rather than a relevant well-shaped one.

It may seem that I ask that all thoughts continue their flight of fancy without ever requiring them to culminate into action. Not so. The thought’s flight gives it perspective – and a better chance at well-shaped action, rather than an amorphous one dictated by the relatively narrow channel that a process defines. A few border crossings do not violate a process, yet they allow a better chance at deliberate and directed action.

A process is only useful if its purpose is known. A thought, every time it is weighed with apprehension, weakens its wings and limits its flight.


7 thoughts on “Shaping a Thought

  1. I so agree with every word you have said here.. the beauty and completeness of potentiality, in its dynamic state is so much better than a half hearted ‘wholesome’ expression.
    I relate to this post because of the innumerable number of images and paintings that i have painted in my mind, and never wished to put them on canvas.. somehow they seem shallow and superficial in content when put on canvas..and vibrant and volatile in my mind..


  2. I have never given importance to the shape of things, to come or otherwise. A thought is somewhat restricted if shaped…and it is the duty of those who write to share, not information, but a randomness, a state of mind to keep it free.

    Flies better.


  3. ==Sushma:
    You know of a friend of mine, who lurks on this blog – who once said about writing letters – “by the time the words come out of the heart and onto the paper, they are rendered useless.” Something like that. The shallowness is a factor of desperately wanting to make meaning – whether complete or not. That is what I call process-oriented-thinking – “say” it because the “process” now requires you to say so in such-and-such manner. That killed it all.

    Ask your canvas, which, methinks, has more patience than you do.

    Freedom, someday, has to express itself, whether in the rebellious bombs in the parliament or the fistful of salt of defiance. It may still not be a complete well-shaped thought – but at least it will not be the amoebic-lump-shaped imposition that we have to face.

    Anything that is light and aerodynamic flies better 🙂

    Yes. I said that above. My rant is about when it is dictated. A human becomes an artist, the moment a thought is shaped by his or her own doing and exercised in action. Let’s move away from words – putting thoughts into action, whether paints, words, music, P/L statements, business cases, chairs, tables, or cocktails or what you have – what would you rather have? The one governed by a code or the one governed by creativity?

    All people can think. Period. All people can express. Double period. It’s either a choice or an escape mechanism that people don’t express. They may express well or may express in a way that gives you knots in your stomach. But, they can. Triple period.


  4. The entire concept or ‘process’ of giving shape is so human, think about it even our gods have some shape – some definition. We even gave a shape to infinity. Shape is something we can identify even if the more evolved beings told us it wasn’t necessary. Even if for a while I decide I’ll see what happens if I just let go and be in a shapeless state existence, I’ll come back and check what shape did I take. Maybe when we become souls we will know this meaning.

    btw – well written


  5. something written (or even said) in a hurry, to me, comprises honesty. give the thought time to grow and form and more often than not, u take away elements of honesty, an identity. external influences. perhaps, might fester. why give something another form/shape than what it started out as? i am not saying that one shld not delve deeper into matters, but every once in a while leave the thought to be what it started out to be, honest. that to me is the real “freedom of thought”

    beautiful post 🙂


  6. ==Jols:
    Thank ye. I agree @ shapes – interesting observation there. Yet a process gives the same shape repeatedly, kinda boring after a while

    Thank you, been a long time 🙂

    I agree whole-heartedly – giving direction (read: process) to a thought removes any honesty and creativity with which it was originally born.


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