The idea that thoughts are hypothetical is partially true. You can have a thought and have it not be real in one sense, but in another the thought has physical causes and physical effects. Certainly, atom-splitting wouldn’t happen much on the Earth’s crust without humans having the idea of it first. That is one physical effect of an idea. The cause of the idea of splitting the atom came from other physical things, such as the physical reality of Word War II. The other cause of this idea was other thoughts that had come before. Where did those ideas come from? Certainly not from just one mind. The ideas were hanging in the funk between scientists in sweaty stressed out bodies. Bodies that wanted respect, dignity, sex, food and so many other things that brought out their thinking work. After the physical causes, when a thought happens, it effects the brain and usually other parts of the body immediately.

The quote about thinking I like most is “The trick [to thinking hard], Berty boy, is not minding that it hurts”. Thinking hurts. It taxes the body. Even pleasurable thinking hurts, much like other pleasurable bodily things hurt. When you eat, the body has a lot of work to do. Same with sex, playing sports, or any recognizable activity, pleasurable or not. The belief that thinking all the time will make you happy, either through positive thinking, or by the idea that life is a game of strategy that we could win by becoming rich or famous, does not have much truth in it. Even though the scientists that built the atom bomb “won” and got rewards for their bodies, the effect was generally a loss to society. Maybe there is less discomfort for many people as a result of winning the war, but the result of atom-splitting becoming a serviceable thought is mainly a whole lot of stress and worry about subsequent applications of the idea of the atom bomb. It is possible to think your way out of thinking, but it is the hardest thing to do with thinking. The most successful works of language do just that, like the song of a Tibetan singing bowl, they are sounds that cause silence.

The idea that we should think a lot in education is a large drain on everyone in the form of stress and worry. Believing this stress and worry is just a fantasy is not a respectable position. Worry is a negative feedback loop, though. Stressful thoughts conceive more stressful (often unnecessary) thinking. It can be counteracted with mental effort, but none of this is fantasy. Stressful thinking has immediate physical presence in the body, and long term physical causes and effects. We have this stress anyway, because when there are other forms of suffering and hardship, we feel the need to think it through. There is nothing bad about the kind of thinking that takes you through hardship. One of the bad effects of other unnecessary stressful thinking is that the stressful thinking that is good for handling hardship of humans gets pushed to the side. People in America tend to think listening to the life stories of other people is a favor we do for them. It is true it is stressful thinking, but this is the kind of thinking that really helps everyone. Learning algebra is stressful thinking that is rarely applied by most of the individual minds that do the learning. For some reason we believe the human being next to us and their life story is less important than algebra, or less important than the political narrative pushed with oppressive sameness on 100 different news channels. This is a loss to society.

Some people just don’t think that much, and there is something bad about that. Thinking through the things that make us unhappy is very effective, as any therapist will tell you. Once we’re happy though, the goal is to leave thinking behind for as long as possible.