Life throws problems at us. The reason they’re problems is that there’s something buried deep inside of us that doesn’t fit with them. However, because it’s buried deep inside, we don’t know about it. So when a problem comes our way, we fix-up an ad-hoc solution to the problem. We grab whatever’s lying around–sticks, leaves, flat stones–and lash them together with bubblegum to make a bridge that gets us to the other side.
So life rolls another problem our way. It’s a problem because there’s still something buried deep inside ourselves that jars with the outside world. But it’s still buried, and we still don’t know what it is. The bubblegum bridge we built last time–the ad-hoc solution–doesn’t quite work this time. The ground on the other side has shifted and the bridge won’t hold our weight. So, we grab some more of whatever we can find, spit out another wad of gum and fix things up as best we can. And we get across.
But then, there’s another problem. It comes from that same thing, buried inside ourselves. We still aren’t aware it’s the source of all these problems. So, we get chewing on the bubblegum and gather our sticks and stones to remodel our bridge again.
Building these bubblegum bridges starts when we’re very, very young. When we’re very, very young it’s pretty much all we’re capable of. When we become aware of the thing buried inside, the root of these problems, we can tear down the bubblegum bridge and build something sturdy and real.
When we grow into adults still unaware of the root of these problems, the bubblegum bridges become huge, contorted masses kept together only because they’re falling apart in every direction with equal force. Walking across them does us damage. It restricts the choices we are free to make. But the idea of tearing it all down and starting again… a little pain, a few closed doors is so much easier.
Let’s say you, unknown to yourself, believe that everyone you meet hates you. It happens to more people than you’d think. So, the first bubblegum bridge is to avoid everyone. That works for a little while, but not very long. So you start forcing other people to do what you want, because that’s safe. But then people start to avoid you. So you start scripting conversations in your head so it won’t wander into uncomfortable territory. That works for causal interaction, once you get the hang of it. So you avoid anything deeper. You avoid any situation you can’t control. When you can’t avoid those situations, you fall back into being bossy and imposing your will. And if anyone does get close to you, you push them away. But you can’t go to parties because the scripts don’t work there and you end up alone and hiding the shadows of a corner. And you can’t learn archery because there’ll be someone telling you you’re doing things wrong, and you’re only coping mechanism is to try and impose your will.
Bubblegum bridges. Ad-hoc, often destructive solutions to underlying problems which are painful and difficult to find, dig out and deal with. Solutions which have been augmented over a number of years into complicated and treacherous rituals which even you sometimes fall foul of.
I only have a small thought box, you know. I don’t know a lot about neuroscience, and the reading I’ve done seems to be saying that neuroscientists don’t know a huge amount, either. I mean, they have oodles of data but not enough to have a proper name for your thought box. At least, not one they can all agree on. And if they do, I don’t know how to find it and I don’t want to make an arse of myself by mis-sciencing all of ya’ll.
Anyway, your thought box is where your conscious thoughts are. As well as, ‘I want a pickle’-type thoughts, it’s the place where you do all the talking to yourself, the churning over of ideas, the debating over the merits of pickle eating… basically, all the stuff in your brain you’re conscious of.
The size of someone’s cogitatio capsa (does the Latin make you more comfortable? Make this whole ramble seem more sciencey?) is a big determining factor in how smart we think someone is. Take multiplication. Maybe your cogitatio capsa can’t do the maths for 2352×423. So you break it down into bits you can do. The bigger those bits and the more of them you can hold (and more bits mean you’re more likely to make connections between them), the smarter you are.
The bits for me have to be very small. Complex ideas won’t fit in there. This is why I have to write everything down to make sense of it.
It’s also why I have a habit of coming up with these little sayings. ‘Ad-hoc, often destructive do-dah whatsits’ won’t fit in there. The whole reason I have ideas is so I can examine and manipulate them. So I can understand them. So I can use them to talk to myself. The phrase, ‘bubblegum bridges’ fits in quite nicely, and serves as a shortcut to the longer, more complex definition. It leaves plenty of space for other things. I only have to articulate the simple phrase ‘bubblegum bridges’ to get the full benefits of the complete definition.
I don’t think I’m the only one who needs shortcuts to complex ideas. I mean, we have ‘Big Brother’, ‘space race’, ‘multicultural’ and dozens more. If you ever find any of mine useful, then feel free to take them. I won’t lose anything. And I wouldn’t be sharing them if I didn’t want them to be shared.