[Very long essay that was written a couple of months back. It would be interesting to know how many people read it to the end (talks about your interests/patience ;). Leave a comment if you actually read it ;) It would be pretty encouraging for me ;);)]
Patterns! We all know what patterns are. Day follows night which follows day. It is a pattern. Summers follow winters which follow summers. It is a pattern. All the four seasons, coming and going in succession is a pattern. Patterns are everywhere. The whole of nature operates in patterns. Our mind is inside the nature and it also follows patterns.
So, the interesting question is, what are the patterns of the operations of the mind. Before we get into the intricacies of the answer, let’s look at some examples of the patterns that we human beings exhibit.
Handwriting. Everybody writes in a different way. Someone puts a circle on top of i and someone doesn’t care about writing a very clear g. Someone writes each character separately and someone mingles up all the characters. You can just take a look at a sample of the handwriting of someone known and immediately tell such and such person has written it. There is also handwriting analysis which is based on the premise that the patterns in the handwritng directly or indirectly reflect patterns of the mind.
Driving. Some people push the accelerator abruptly and some people accelerate very smoothly. Some people roll up the car windows and do not bother what’s going on outside and some people can’t help shouting at others. If you are travelling with four friends of yours in a car. Even if you are blindfolded, you can tell who is driving. That’s because your mind can find a pattern in the way car is being driven and based on that conclude who is driving.
Writing. Everybody writes in a different way. Some people are elaborate, some concise. Some use examples, some use quotes, some use analogies. Again, if you take a sample writing who is from an author you are used to reading (could be your friend’s blog too), you can make out who has written it. That’s because your mind can find a pattern in the same.
Well, I can go on and on but I guess you got the idea. So, there are patterns in everything. What’s a pattern? If event A causes event B, B causes C and C causes D, these events will happen in succession whenever event A is caused. So, ABCD becomes a pattern.
Now, let me switch the tracks and talk about the relation of patterns with the mind. First, let me congratulate the mind at its immense skills of discovering patterns in events and things by some sort of intutive capabilities. When it sees a sample of handwriting, it automatically and intutively discovers some of the patterns in that handwriting. I say it intutive as the mind doesn’t really try to define the pattern in the handwriting. It doesn’t conciously make a note what exactly the pattern is. It just knows the pattern. Isn’t it? When you read an author, the mind doesn’t conciously make notes of the style of that author. But your mind still knows the patterns in the writings of that author. You might conciously note one or two things but that’s because those things would be too distinct to be ignored. More or less, this process of picking up the pattern from a sample is a subconcious process.
Secondly, not only can the mind pick up the patterns from the environment, it can also recognize whether a series of events follows that pattern. Objection: Handwriting is not a series of events. Answer: Handwriting is actually a record of series of events and in that way, it represents that series of events of which it is a result.
So, once you pick up a pattern from driving, you can apply it on different driving samples and know (again by some sort of intution) whether those samples match this pattern or not. It may sound very trivial thing as we do it every moment of our existence but try making a computer program do it and you would know how hard it can get.
Next interesting thing is that the mind refines the patterns. If the mind has seen only one cycle of climatic seasons, it will know them just as it is. But every time it sees the climatic cycle, it will refine its intutive knowledge of the same. For instance, it would have allowance for some variation. Again the amount of variation that it keeps allowance for will depend on how much variation it has seen. If the monsoons get delayed by 1 month, we find it ok. However, we are surprized if the monsoon doesn’t come at all. Take one more example. A person living in a village or a small town is used to some pattern in routine. When the same person comes to a city, he would find the pattern of his routine changed and he would find it a little convenient. Over a period of time, the mind would get adjusted to this new pattern and he would again be ok. So, the mind refines its intutive knowledge of patterns.
Then comes the mind’s ability to apply the same pattern in different areas. I have seen several programmers who want to “delete” their tummy Or they would want to do Ctrl-F if they can’t locate something that must be there in the house but is not visible. Similarly, people from every profession find ways to apply their jingo to other areas of life. For example, once a lawyer requested Sri Yukteshwar to accept himself as a disciple by using the word probation. This capability of the mind of applying patterns from one area to another area is commonly visible with regards to the jingo of a profession. However, that’s what mind effectively does with regards to every series of events. For instance, some of the patterns used in architecting buildings can be applied to GUIs of computer programs. The patterns used for holding a mug, a door as well as a bag are the same.
I remember reading an interview of a person whose profession was designing things. He would design things like (for instance) mixer-grinder. He said, “I try to design things that speak to people as to how they should be used”. Have you seen some doors that need to be pulled for opening but almost everybody would first try pushing them? That’s cosidered a problem with the design of the door and not the person who was trying to open it.
What is the principle at work here? Application of patterns from one area to another. Once you know how to hold a mug, you also know how to hold a bag. Plain and simple. Your mind applies the mug holding pattern to the bag because it sees some similarity there. Often times it happens that we would come across an object and we wouldn’t know how to use it. We would curiously look at the object for sometime and closely examine it. And then an idea flashes across our mind and we immediately know how to use this object. During examination, what our dear mind is doing is trying to find some pattern in the object that it recognizes. It can either find an exact match or it can try to combine and extend the existing patterns stored in layers of the mind.
A little bit of summary will do us good before we proceed to the next level on this topic. The mind can intutively pick up patterns from a set of series of events. The mind can look at another series of events within the same area and find out if the new series matches the patterns that it has already seen. It refines its knowledge about the pattern over a period of time as more and more samples are seen. The mind can also apply the patterns of one area to another area. For instance, the patterns of architecture can be applied to GUI of a computer program.
Now, I would make a radical jump in what I am talking about. So far, the way I have presented everything, it would seem that the mind looks at whole and then tries to find patterns in that whole. For instance, if the mind looks at a sample of a handwriting, the mind would look at every aspect of the handwriting and then pick up the patterns from the same. But that’s not the case. What mind tries to do is just look at the patterns. Only if it cannot find a pattern does it try to look at the whole (only in an attempt to find some pattern). Thr ar sevrl exmples of th sme. The previous statement was an attempt to show that our mind does not carefully read each and every word and then try to make out some pattern in the same. Right from the beginning, all that it tries to do is find a pattern. It is a very important thing to understand. Our mind does not look at the whole and then derives patterns out of it. It rather looks for known patterns themselves to begin with and parellely extends or refines the existing patterns.
With this approach, the mind is doing some kind of filtering. All the patterns act as filters. Our perception of an object is that information about the object that gets passed through the filters of the known patterns. Let us consider a case where you come across a structure. As soon as the mind starts receiving information about the structure through the senses, it would start the process of pattern matching. First pattern that arises is that it is a building. Then the next pattern it finds is that it is a temple (assuming that this building was a temple). So on so forth. Two interesting things happen as soon as the mind recognizes the pattern of temple in the structure. First thing is that the mind starts filtering out that information about the temple that does not fit into the known pattern of a temple. On the other hand, the information about the temple which does not fit into the known pattern works towards extending the temple pattern. For instance, consider a person who lived in a village which had several temples but all of them had only one idol and that of Vishnu. And this person never ventured outside his village, nor did he ever receiving information about temples in other areas. One day, he happens to go to another village where there is a Shiva temple. His initial known pattern of temple will have provision only for Vishnu idol but on his new observation, this pattern will get expand to include the idea that there can be any deity in the temple. When he goes to an Arya Samaj Madir, his temple pattern would further get extended to make provisions for a temple pattern without an idol.
Whether a piece of information (that does not fit into the known pattern) gets filtered out or extends the pattern depends on a lot of factors. I don’t want to get into that as that opens just another chapter in the field of psychology. The laptops usually come with an in-built microphone. However, that microphone is well hidden inside the laptop. What is a visible is just a tiny (needle size) hole close to the power button. When I got my first laptop, I didn’t realize that it had a microphone. I had seen the hole but it didn’t match any of the known patterns. So, the information about that hole just got filtered out. It was so till a day when I had to use a microphone and I started searching for one in the laptop. And then my eyes again fell upon that tiny hole and the idea of microphone flashed across the mind as that seemed to me the only unexplained thing in my laptop.
In the aforementioned example, initially the object called tiny hole got filtered out because it didn’t fit any of the known patterns. However, later it extended the known patterns and now when I look at a laptop, that tiny hole doesn’t get filtered out.
There is a saying, “If all that you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. In the context of this essay, when you have a hammer pattern, only those properties of the perceived objects are received by the mind that match the nail pattern. This is because the mind is looking for nail pattern in every object and it filters out all the other properties of the objects.
So, the mind has a repository of patterns and it filters the received information about objects through those filters. Sometimes, the properties of the objects that do not fit the pattern get ignored and sometimes those properties extend the known patterns.
Now, the interesting thing is that these patterns related habits of the mind themselves form a pattern. So, it is a pattern in the operation of the mind that it looks for patterns in perceived objects, applies patterns from one area to another, extends the known patterns etc etc.
This pattern stuff is not the only pattern of the operation of the mind, there are several other patterns this mind follows but it is a very interesting thing that the patterns have nesting in a sense. Mind has a pattern of operation that looks for patterns. Wow!
Based on my gut feeling, I think the following statements are true. I have not derived any logical basis for these statements. I just feel that they are true. I would like if someone would like to give his/her opinions on the whole subject and/or the validity of these statements.
* As part of the evolution, newer and newer patterns are emerging in nature. That way, evolution is directly proportional to number of existing patterns in the nature. * The capability to observe is to remove the filters of the patterns from the mind when an object is perceived. That way, the object can be observed in greater detail. * The tasty/awful, interesting/boring etc are again functions of the patterns. The mind finds some patterns tasty and some awful, some interesting and some boring etc. * A law is nothing but a fixed pattern. For example, when a piece of iron is brought close to a magnet, there will be a force of attraction between the two. This pattern is fixed to such an extent that it becomes a law. I have the logical basis for this and I would talk about them separately some day. * When hammer is all that you have, everything looks like a nail. Similarly, if this theory of patterns is all that I have, I would try to explain every phenomenon in nature by using this theory ;)