That late 19th century "atom", it turned out, is not the ultimate building block of matter, and indeed will probably end up being seen as a fictional unit altogether, discarded from scientific discourse. So too, it is becoming clear that our thoughts are not singular, fundamental units of consciousness, but are complex fabrics woven of many strands and fragments. Or to use another analogy, our thoughts are like symphonic compositions, with multiple instruments playing independent but related, or semi-related consonant and dissonant melodies, tones, and percussive beats.
This understanding of thought is derived from my direct experience, and emerges from the comprehensively documented observations of the highly superimposed nature of consciousness. To use a computing metaphor, human consciousness is a multi-tasking system, and each task is multi-threaded. At any given moment, consciousness is composed of multiple sensations, emotions, thoughts, and higher-order impressions and operations (these latter being beyond the threshold of common awareness), and each sensation, emotion, and thought is multi-threaded.
Most of the time most people are entirely unaware of this symphony of processing going on within them, that comprises human mentation. Indeed, we are wont to reduce this welter of processes to single thoughts, or single emotions, or single sensations, or at most, single (mostly) linear narratives. The arts, of course, challenge this kind of simplification. As noted, the symphony with its multiple instruments playing multiple melodies, phrases, and sounds replicates the multi-threaded nature of human consciousness. The novel, with its complex interacting characters and interwoven story lines replicates both the multi-tasking and multi-threading of consciousness. Yet, nowhere in literature, at least to my knowledge, has this exploration of complexity focused down into the multi-threaded functioning of consciousness itself. At most, we have stream-of-consciousness techniques exploring the uppermost level of awareness and its often non-linear narrative trajectory.
In my next post will you will be able to read (and critique) a first draft of just such an exploration.