I hate this question. But I do not hate the people who ask it.
I know why people ask it: They want to start up a conversation. As someone who enjoys talking, I cannot fault them for this even a little bit.
But it’s a loaded question, similar to asking someone “How are you doing?” What they want really isn’t the question; they don’t care. “How are you doing?” has become conflated with “Hello!” And “What’cha thinkin’?” is more like “Let’s talk about something here; the silence is killing me!”
This is fine, until the person asking this is a person you know actually does care what indeed you are thinking about. But it doesn’t make the question any less loaded.
First, how can one answer it accurately?
At any given moment, most of our thoughts are in flux, even when fixated upon a particular object.
“I’m thinking about how to fix this shelf, and then I saw a red bird fly out the window, a cardinal, I think, and those are my grandma’s favorite birds, and I really should give her a call today . . .”
Second, to answer it in the spirit its usually intended, topics shouldn’t be all that weighty. Therefore, you kinda-sorta lie about what you’re thinking at the current time. You give some fluffy answer that may have been on the periphery of your thoughts, something anodyne that won’t bring the recipient down:
“Ah, just thinking about that game last night.”
“Oh, just thinking about this crazy weather.”
“You know, I’d really like to check out that new restaurant downtown.”
But do you want to know what I’m thinking about a lot?
Because it’s space! What’s out there? What are other planets and moons like? Will we ever figure out what a black hole really is, or what’s on the other side? How did it all begin? What happens when galaxies collide? Is there life on Mars, or Uranus (sorry, I had to)?
Space is but one thing I think about often, though. I’m usually thinking about eternity. God. The meaning and purpose of life. The future of civilization. What things will look like for my children and grand-children and great-grand-children when I’m gone. Whether God has a plan or it’s all some cruel joke.
I know, I know, I’m tons of fun at parties.
Who wants to talk about these things?
And this brings me to one of my favorite pastimes–cigar smoking.
But not necessarily with other people, which I do enjoy when the time is right. However, when it’s time to contemplate weighty matters, I like to smoke alone, outside under the sky and the stars, acknowledging my relative insignificance coupled with the fact that, yes, I exist, and even though it’s small, I’m making an impact on space and time.
Cigar smoking relaxes me. Not my body. My mind. I get a buzz that both relaxes me and sharpens my focus.
It’s weird. One would think that loosening up the mind would lead to undisciplined flights of fancy. But the opposite is true, at least for me.
Standing under that great sky, not knowing what’s out there but imagining it all the same, I can’t help but think about this universe and my place in it.
Thoughts turn in that direction and inevitably to that entity that I and many others believe created this world and us. And then I try to figure out why. And what happens when you die.
I have theories. We all have theories. Some based on Scripture and Holy Writ, and others made up out of whole cloth with no evidence other than a feeling that, “Yeah, that makes sense . . .”
It’s hard for me to have these cathartic conversations under a roof and enclosed between four walls.
It’s hard for my mind to go to these places when I am with others asking me what I’m thinking and yet I know they don’t want to travel down these philosophical and rhetorical routes.
And yes, it’s hard to stretch my mind to this degree if I’m not smoking.
When my time to be with my thoughts has burned down to the end, I put it out and cast it aside with all the other reminders of thoughts gone by. Each stub of a cigar represents time spent thinking, physical embodiments of a mental process.
To leave such artifacts on the ground or in an ash-tray or in a trashcan seems almost unceremonious.
But, just like the burnt ends of that cigar, I too am nothing more than dust that will be put somewhere out of the way when my own time has been burned out to the end.
Nothing to get upset about.
So yeah, that’s what I’m thinking.
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