Back in the 1980s I remember that visiting a supermarket tended to be a fairly unthinking activity. We would take down cans of food, or what approximated to food, and place them rather carelessly in the shopping trolley, before carting them home and eventually consuming the mysteries within. These days we tend to be quite a bit more discriminating about what we buy. Checking the ingredients list on the side of a can or a packet has become almost automatic; we now seem to have developed a keen sense that what we eat has an effect on our bodies, our minds, our emotions, and our quality of life. And we don’t stop there; we also check where our food has come from, in light of anything from airmiles to sweatshops to the policies of nations.
Sometimes when I think of the thoughts we think, I think about shopping in a supermarket. In mind of the spirit of Marx who commented that we make our own history but not quite as we please, when we think our thinks we do indeed think our own, but not quite as we please. We are born into conditions of thought not of our own making, and, for the most part, we tend to take our cans of ready-packaged thought down off the supermarket shelf with little regard to content or provenance or ethical import. Ready-made thought, ripe for consumption. We often give little thought to the ways that particular kinds of thinking can affect our bodies, our minds, our emotions, and our quality of life. And they can.
It would be better if we could get into the habit of being as ecological about where our thinking comes from as we have become about where our food comes from. Yes, we can get a little precious about our food, but the reason we check what we check and monitor what we monitor where our food is concerned is so we don’t harm ourselves or harm others, if we can at all avoid it. If our thinking also affects our sense of self, our mood, our sense of how we relate to others, and guides us in our everyday actions, surely it makes sense to be a little bit more discerning about where our thinking comes from?