I don’t really know quite how to describe what I mean. That should, dear reader, instill a sense of confidence that you’re spending your precious time on a worthwhile topic.
But what the hell. Here we go.
Last year I read Trouble Boys by Bob Mehr. You’ve read it, right? I mean, I know you’re a huge Replacements fan, right? I knew I liked you the moment you set eyes on this essay.
Where was I? Right. Here. Accidentally Cogitating. In Trouble Boys, Mehr talks about how the Replacements’ lead singer, Paul Westerberg (I know you knew that, but just being extra clear) has dyslexia. This isn’t something I know about first hand, but I really got into his descriptions of how his thinking jumbles concepts, making connections other people don’t see. Mixing up words and phrases, often to unique, brilliant results: Pretty girl keep growin’ up, playin’ make-up, wearin’ guitar.
I’ve done a lot of Improv. It was an important part of forming my neural connections. Something you’ll notice about improv people is that they tend to like puns. They tend to kind of mis-hear things on occasion, maybe even on purpose. They embrace the mistake.
They find the game within the game. They are driven to create within the constraints.
From the outside, they seem ‘quick’ thinkers. I dunno. Maybe. Or maybe it’s that they’re more open to the accidental connections that make for novel ideas and new ways of connecting the dots. Tychaisthesia? Greek language scholars can line up to admonish me when I finish writing this.
I very much doubt Paul Westerberg has done much improv. I’ve met Tommy Stinson (and OMG was I the dorky fanboy), and he doesn’t strike me as an improv person either. But he, like Paul, has the knack for inventive lyrics. Lyrics that aren’t just clever — they open your eyes to a new way of seeing the world: I’m dressin’ sharp and feelin’ dull.
And what an incredible gift that is — stumbling you into a new perception. Tripping you into a new reality with your own neurochemicals. Making a mess, and God, what a mess, on the ladder of success where you take one step and miss the whole first rung.
Pushing you to accidentally cogitate.
* NB: my original title/concept was ‘Thinking Sideways’. A quick googling of the term turned up a published book under the same name. Never read it, so I figured I better not use the title. Then thought of ‘cogitate loosely’ — yesssss, mental diarrhea!