In Praise Of Cloudy Thinking

Of all things I was attempting to purchase a pair of shoes online and the stage I was up to was the selection stage. Some might argue that selection is the only stage – you want to buy shoes, chose the ones you want, pay for them, done – but there had been more to consider than that. Firstly, English-made seemed the way to go, for quality of construction and materials and hopefully to get something which lasts, but English means expensive, and it can mean very expensive, and the pound is still dominates the Australian dollar, which produces a magnifying effect where prices may be higher than they appear at first, and so the thing to do was to avoid certain brands. Certain styles and types had to be discarded as not appropriate to the purpose or too over-priced for something a little bit fun and gimmicky. For a long time I thought I was buying something slightly gimmicky, although that’s not the right word – a second pair of shoes, something less conservative, and with a bit of an individual personality – but it just sort of came to me that that was not what I was after and it was not the way to go at all.

Seems obvious now, but I decided that the best course of action was to replace the shoes which became mortally wounded recently (and then, perhaps, following a huge win on the horses or something get a pair of correspondent shoes, which are quite absurd but rather stylish two-tone brogues). For days the search was on for something different. Different from what I have. Different from what I’ve ever had. Similar in style but not in colour. Brown but not black for a bit of variety. And then my mind changed, as if from an external source, and it was settled.

It struck me that this was a similar experience to punting, the way I punt anyway, during the football (NRL) season. Actually I punt all through the off season – well, the punters club does anyway – and thus there’s wagering all year round really, but footy putting is different. It’s more concentrated, in every sense: smaller, more focussed, more intense, and more attention is devoted to the thinking that needs to be done too. And it’s a strange process, for there are many options available for betting from the result of the match to other team or individual outcomes, and this is a subject about which I am informed. Quite informed anyway. And I go over the options and exclude the games which seem to close to call and assess where there’s value in the other matches, all the time imagining what will transpire and how events will play out, and wondering if my conclusions are the same as the conclusions are the same as those of the other punters, by consulting the current odds, and still, knowing all that I know and being aware of all the possibilities that are possible, it often doesn’t seem quite right and I’m not happy and don’t feel ready to commit to a wager. More thought seems necessary. In fact it isn’t more thought at all. The thinking is over. It’s more a case of sifting. Getting rid of the distracting thoughts and weighing the possibilities again. And if I’m lucky, it will come to me, something I’ve been staring at – often literally – a simple option, an idea too elegant to ignore, and my mind can rest and it’s done. (Of course then the bloody players often let me down, but that doesn’t change the purity of the bet and the excellence of its formulation.)

So, wasting time thinking about something and then coming to a conclusion which should have been obvious from the start reminds me of something I often do during the footy season … and I’m calling this thought process a good thing? Like I’m proud of it? Yeah, I suppose I am, sort of. It’s good to be able to get to the answer you’re looking for, even when it seemed elusive. Especially when it seemed elusive – like when a crossword clue seems like the sort of thing you should be able to answer, but you just can’t, and you think about something else, and even leave it for a day, and do other things, and think about other things a bit more, and sometimes that’s enough and you can just answer straight away when you come back to the puzzle.

It’s best not to rely on this kind of thinking. It seems to just happen. Perhaps we create an environment for clarity to emerge or perhaps we just try less hard to get the answer right or it’s magic. The last conclusion isn’t especially likely. But it is mysterious and part of the enjoyment of mysteries is that they are not understood and remain mysterious.

Published in: on February 28, 2012 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

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