Archive | June 2012

Uncovering Mental Energy

ENERGY. You’ll have seen from this blog’s title that I specifically mean mental energy. What do I mean by this? (if you don’t want to think for yourself what it could be defined as, Google it and read the Wikipedia definition). What’s more, how could this differ from other types of energy, if we can indeed split up energy into various philosophical types that are different from the scientific groups (nuclear, chemical, light, sound, thermal, kinetic…)?

I am going to take the stance that it is more important how this “mental energy” acts and manifests itself than how we define it. As means of justification, this is often the stance taken in mathematics, for example when the implications of complex numbers became clear, the merely philosophical question of “what is a complex number?” (not longer after this was solved) was deemed rather trivial. Likewise, in mathematics a point or a line is significant because of how it acts not because of what a line intrinsically is, and they are indeed difficult to define (think about a point for instance, if you were to think of it as an infinitely/arbitrarily small concentration of mass or consumption of 2D space, a point would be nothing as it tends to being so small it is nothing) – so they can be taken as “axioms” (given facts that cannot be proven or broken up into “smaller” facts).

How do we then consider the difference between mental and physical energy? By way of example, I would set the maximum of my mental energy level as the feeling that I could start from where I am now and sprint endlessly from here and all the way round the earth and back, but put this energy more into either a state of alertness or a state of being more detached from the outside world but thinking either very quickly or with great depth, and having so much of this energy that I don’t actually want to do anything else. Physical energy level would be to what extent I could actually sprint round the circumference of the earth  (and this would be far less than my mental energy level could ever be). In a sense, this is a great blessing, because little would be achieved in sprinting round the earth (not to mention that this would probably be beyond the capabilities of man!), and I have much greater control over how much mental energy I have at any given moment than physical energy, and I would consider mental energy to be of far more use. If I were to give my definition of “mental energy”, it would be   more as a state of mind than a measurement of neurons firing in your brain.

I ask myself where I usually am on my scale of mental energy, and if this it is more or less beneficial to be at a given point on this scale, but it’s so hard to come with a point on a linear scale that defines you at a given moment. How do you answer the question, “How are you, on a scale from one to ten?” What’s one? What’s ten? With an undefined scale you might as well answer “bananas”, and claim your scale goes “one, bananas, ten”. Without being daft, something entirely undefinable is what probably lies between someone’s idea of the worst they could imagine being and their idea of paradise, and “bananas” would actually be a very good description. Yet, why should “one” be attributed to the worst you could be and “ten” the best you could be? All you could be at any given moment is what you are – if you think you could be possibly better or worse, you aren’t, unless you change your outlook in the next moment. I could justify to myself why I could both be infinitely better and worse.

A possible means of considering mental energy could be through consideration of a lack of it i.e. “mental tiredness”, and how this could differ from “physical tiredness”. My favourite feeling, is when I’ve thought so “hard” that your brain hurts, and at that moment you think the best thing you could wish to do is think even more, though it seems rather contradictory that the highest height of “mental tiredness” be where the most “mental energy” can be found, but very logical when you consider that it’s though using mental energy that you would become mentally tired, but equally thorough using mental energy would you become more mentally energised. If I were to draw a graph of “use of mental energy” against “mental energy”, it would have the shape of y=absolute value of x.

In contrast, a similar graph for physical energy would probably be a straight line – the more you used, the less you have left. Yet a graph of mental energy against physical energy could be very complex.  Maybe at the greatest amount of physical energy you would have the least amount of mental energy, for little motivation would be required to get you going, but I think it would vary greatly from person to person the amount of mental energy they have when they have very little physical energy.

I think that what’s remarkable about the concept of mental energy is that we can have as much of it as we wish or give ourselves. Physically, we may be limited by the laws of conservation of energy and the limits of human body’s metabolic rate. True, the average power consumption of a typical adult (I cannot scientifically verify these figures but Google or run experiments on it and come to your own conclusion about the reliability of the data, if it’s not entirely accurate the proportions are probably still useful for an idea) is 100 Watts and the brain consumes 20% of this making the power of the average brain 20 W, so the brain does indeed use energy. However, only in situations of extreme starvation would the brain not have enough glucose to function as you would wish. To be more mentally energised, we don’t need to eat more or carry out weight training to build more muscle mass or whatever to increase metabolic weight. We can just think, and mentally energise ourselves through thought.

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