Tuesday, May 1, 2012

You know how when you're reading a book your mind will sometimes wander? Only realizing after a few paragraphs that your eyes have just been going over the words while you've been thinking about something else. Everyone has done this, I'm sure.

Today, it happened to me but with a strange twist. In the middle of the page I realized it was happening, but still I let my mind wander. Then after a second, I went back to the top of the page because I thought I had read something I wanted to get. Something I wanted to remember. After I couldn't find it on the page, I realized it had been something I was thinking that I wanted to remember. A thought, as my internal dialogue meandered, I wanted to come back to.

It wasn't a brief confusion. I was wholly convinced that I read what turned out to be something I was thinking. I really searched for it. In my mind I saw the words written in the same font as the book. I read the damn page three times. The words were not there.

This was a first. I had mixed up my mind and my media. 

Maybe when my mind flits off while I'm reading my eyes are on autopilot, but since my thoughts aren't about the book, my eyes can't possibly be processing the words on the page. Besides, my mind is what processes stuff, the eyes only receive light. So in effect, I think my eyes were reading my thoughts. I'm guessing if a person's eyes are continuing along the page while his mind is elsewhere, they are still performing the muscular task of reading. What are they "reading?" Only the mind can process letters, know where to jump between words, notice where the page ends in order to tell the eyes when to go down and to the left (for those of us who read in the Western fashion), and realize that neither your eyes nor your mind have been paying any attention to this book.

Maybe it just happened to you reading this record of my wandering thoughts.

Perhaps it's all just a muscular habit. Your eyes keep doing what they do, no matter what your mind is up to. Put a book in front of them, they go into "read activation mode!" It could be that we aren't as in control of our actions as we intuitively feel we are. Although it's hard to believe something as complex and recently developed as reading comprehension could be much like an animal instinct. It wouldn't explain why I was convinced I had read something that in reality I had only thought.