Can you sit in a chair, look into space and think of nothing? If you have never tried it, then try it now, so that you can report back to me.
When I was a little girl (and that wasn't yesterday, or the day before) I would often call out to my father, after I had gone to bed, to say that I couldn't get off to sleep. He would call upstairs and say I should try thinking of nothing. I never could. Within the space of a couple of minutes, something would creep into the corner of my brain.
William James, the American philosopher (and brother of Henry James the author), conjured up the perfect image for this - calling it the 'stream of consciousness' My goodness, they had a real stream to river to sea stream of consciousness going there in that family, didn't they? Dad a philosopher, two sons - one an author and another a philosopher - what a lot of thinking must have gone on in that household! And, of course, the author we all think of when we hear the phrase 'stream of consciousness' is Virginia Woolf, who used it to perfection in her novels.
This morning our paper delivery van has got stuck in a snowdrift and the papers are late. Thus it was that I read dear old Ronald Blythe over my porridge and banana and thus it was that my stream of consciousness began to trickle, then run faster on - well - stream of consciousness.
A very dear friend (yes, M I do mean you) suggested to me at the week-end that my seizure was probably due to my very over-active mind, which seems always to dwell on complicated thoughts. Well, I am not sure how to avoid such thinking - and I am not sure I would wish to, even if there were a way to do so.
James also spoke of this stream being irregular - rather like a bird's life with its flights and perchings. I have always thought of it like a butterfly, which I suppose is a similar idea. All I know for sure is that unless one has a notebook and pen with one constantly, many "brilliant ideas" disappear down the plug hole of life. And even with a notebook the stream often gets dammed up, or dried up. How does one make sense of one's scribblings about some brilliant idea a month after one has written it down - particularly if you've scribbled it down in the dark, in the middle of the night, or going along in the car!
Oh yes, the mind is a wonderful thing; in some people those tiny streams of thought grow and grow into huge ideas, brilliant paintings, amazing pieces of music, glorious novels. But just think how many equally incredible ideas have gone down the drain and disappeared for ever into the wide sargasso sea.