Charting the Wilderness

Thoughtstream is a vast uncharted wilderness. When we start to chart that
wilderness, set out to tame the unknown, do we ever pause to ask ourselves, “For
what purpose am I doing this?”

Of course this is only metaphor – and yet, as with
all metaphor, there is a definite parallel in reality.


Now here I’ve presented you with a notion – from an
ocean of ideas you understand – that there is such a thing as a thoughtstream.
You might take this as being an endlessly flowing
river of energy presented to our conscious awareness – and out of this river we
cherry-pick more noticeable thoughts. Once our cherries have been selected for
examination, we might then retain and discard – perhaps on the basis of

Where fruit and ripeness are concerned, I’d invite
you to consider how you buy bananas – the selection criteria you apply. Amongst
all the bananas some are still a bit green, some are more blackened, and although
you’re never going to eat the skins of the bananas – you’ll have a pretty good
idea of what the flesh of the fruit inside the skins (the meat if you like) is
going to be like. Except of course, if you are new to the process of buying
So my notion of a thoughtstream can take many
metaphorical forms – from fruit in rivers to the one I first placed into your
shopping basket, or in-tray – the vast uncharted wilderness.

what does exploring the wilderness lead?

After the first explorers, when man first went deep
into the Amazon, or studied Antarctica or went to the moon and beyond, what were
the next steps for man? Well, man is very resourceful, and although the overt meaning
here might be that resourceful man has “the ability to find clever ways of overcoming
difficulties”, we would do well to remember that resourceful is an adjective.
“I am resourceful”, “we have resourcefulness”, “they show great resource,” and
so on. We talk about having the resources to overcome issues or obstacles in
our lives. Performers, athletes, speakers, all talk about the need to have enabling
resources at their fingertips.

However, man’s resourcefulness in terms of conquering
any wilderness, taming the unexplored, is actually about exploitation in some
form or other. The explorer may only have the motivation, the desire to ‘boldly
go’ on the mission, purely because of the climbing Everest quote – “because it
is there”. However the explorer’s fellow men, following up on his trailblazing,
have few desires outside those of exploitation. This exploitation is the simple
exploitation of resources. It could be minerals, vegetation, land, people – but
the driver is still exploitation.
Of course, out of that exploitation will sometimes come spin-offs such as
pushing the boundaries of knowledge, but essentially the driving humans behind
the explorers are the exploiters. From Christopher Columbus’ sponsorship by the
King of Spain, to the research scientists funded by drugs companies, to
eventual mining on the moon by the space technology superpowers, exploration
leads to exploitation, eventual dominance, and then maintaining that dominance.

our own wilderness

I’d like to return to my original question – what is
the purpose of charting our thoughtstream, of conquering our wilderness?

For most it is about feeling we are in control – in control
of ourselves. And the more we can chart our wilderness, the more control we
have – seems logical doesn’t it? However – what kind of control is that

Those at the upper end of the control scale are the
control-freaks, the people who live out their lives in their heads. Their wish is to have that felt sense of being in
charge of themselves – of running their own show – and in order to do this they
dredge as much as they can out of their thoughtstream. Then the process is not
about cherry-picking, but more about harvesting what they have dredged. In amongst
each catch they land are cherries, of course, but a load of other stuff as
well. Then, with a collector’s mind-set, they spend all their conscious
awareness paying all their attention to the fruits of their dredging, instead
of living their lives a different way.
And if you think I’m rambling here, then take a good look at the behaviour of some
of the people you know who seem to be dredgers rather than cherry-pickers!

When we cherry-pick from the thoughtstream, who told
us which ones were cherries in the first place? The art of suggestion upon us
by others is well known – and some of us are more susceptible to external
suggestions than others. Therefore, we will have accepted some recognition of
cherries from others.
is all new to me – I can’t do this.
” Does this sound familiar?
If I say this to myself, then I’ll start to look for the ‘cherries’ of “I can’t
from my thoughtstream. Each one I pick out will confirm that I can’t do this. I’m
not looking for the “I can” cherries am I? Those are the
cans of tomatoes or peaches.
Also, if this isn’t bad enough, some of the juice from the cherries starts to
colour up and contaminate things nearby – like doing new things. Next
time we’re looking for the cherries of “I can’t” we’ll be picking out “doing
new things
” as well.
There’s a natural progression to my desire for being in control and the “not being in control” brought about by “new
things I can’t do.
” I just won’t do them! For my life to be smoothly in
control I’ll avoid that kind of stuff – I just won’t go there.

I’ll readily admit that I spent well over forty years
believing that control was the way to go, and I was a very good cherry-picker
and occasional dredger. Looking back over those years, I’m not surprised that I
failed to spot the tell-tale signs of over-thinking, of when my head was full
of spinning plates I was endeavouring to keep spinning. When it’s like that
it feels like there’s no time to step back and change the perspective, even if we
know that that is what we need to do! Most of the time we just plough on
with conquering that thoughtstream, charting that wilderness – and ploughing is
not a word I choose casually either!  

The thing is, our thoughtstream IS a wilderness.
Every morsel of cherry, or of dredge, is neither REAL nor is OURS – until
we make it so

In the very act of seeking out resources to enable
us, we are looking to tame a wilderness that we think is ours.

Now you might be pointing the finger at me by now,
as far as this article is concerned, reminding me that in order for me to have
written it I will have picked some cherries out of my thoughtstream. For all
you or I know, I may even have been dredging!
And I would agree with you – yes, I’ve latched onto some energy flowing by and
amplified it by allowing some cell division to take place. I’ve given some of
it a
or further thought. It’s what we ALL do, all
the time we engage in a thought process.


The difference here for me is that, compared to
those forty or so ordinary years when the purpose was control, the purpose NOW is for exploration.

It’s more like I’m flying over the wilderness,
looking down. Or maybe I’m plying a lone trek through the territory, on a
voyage of discovery – not looking to hack a path in order to build the broad highway
back to ME. I’m exploring, through curiosity and a desire to know. I am not
sponsored by any exploiters and I am not looking to garner some fruit and take
it back to my own domain.

You could say that my domain is the wilderness – and
I’m happy to keep the wilderness wild, unknown, unsullied, unexploited. For it
is not my wilderness, per se, it is just a wilderness. If I
were to chart the wilderness, it would, for one, cease to be unknown – and also
the charts would be mine.

Oh indeed, I do occasionally lose sight of these
things and climb into my own head as
pilot of the plane, so to speak. Sometimes I crash land on the journey, though
these days I mostly just notice the turbulence and ride out the storm.

There is much metaphor here, and even my use of
metaphor ebbs and flows, shoots the rapids and occasionally goes into free
fall. Draw whatever conclusions you will – however I would invite you to always
check out the purpose of your
actions in wanting to chart the wilderness. For in the very act of checking out
you may arrive at the conclusion that you, too, are an explorer not an exploiter
for resources – and charting, therefore, is not a necessity.

Just be comfortable in knowing that the elements in
the thoughtstream are not real, and nor are they yours until you make them so.