Monday, February 8, 2010

Myth: Linear Thought is Inferior

I keep hearing people praise non-linear thought. And in seemingly learned context, they even have an abbreviation for it: NLT. But what’s this all about? The authors of this phrase must have been psychologists with excess leisure time—but youth and new age cultures have certainly picked up on it. People almost proudly say that they’re not into the linear kind. They suggest that linear thought misses the mysteries of existence and cages you in. They dismiss the total written heritage of humanity. Okay. They’d acknowledge some so-called modern poetry and, reluctantly perhaps, James Joyce. He is a little too NLT for most.

My problem is that I can’t produce a decent definition of non-linear thought except, perhaps, by indulging it. Idle associating, hustling after hunches, splashing in tepid pools of spontaneity, zigging after zags, high-fiving with Heys, pissing a pattern on a pavement?

As being a competent householder is the minimum perquisite for any kind of higher learning, so it seems to me that command of linear thought—and capacity to express it in clear writing—is the minimum requirement for producing anything at all, be it products, writings, art, or music. Let me, by way of illustration, translate a poem by Robert Frost into non-linear text for you. See if you can make it out.
Bunch of trees. Some guy. Got to be, yeah. [Image of village] Probably eating. And even if he looked out the window. Hey snowing. Horse blowing. Can’t think, can he. Got to go on. Can’t stop forever. Dark. What they say? Longest night? Stop shaking, buddy. Damned little bells. Impatient s.o.b. Sound odd, those bells. Big flakes. Kind of pretty. Dark in there, kind of like a closet. Got to go. Said I would. Wonder how far. Miles I guess. Then some shut-eye.
Got it? Good. If not, check here for the LT original.

1 comment:

  1. Great example of stream of consciouness. Or is that NLT?