Today I was thinking about how many thoughts there would be if I tried to write down every thought I remembered having since I woke up. Obviously the definition of a thought is problematic; but take the broadest definition, wherein a bundle of vague ideas/memories/sensations coalescing around some theme counts as a thought, but so too does the thought of writing down all thoughts. Define it in whatever way is easiest without being completely vacuous. How many thoughts would there be?
A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? Am I flattering myself to think I've had ten thousand thoughts today? Not really. Not if sexual fantasies, technical questions, fuzzy memories and written sentences count. There's usually something rattling around up there.
Sometimes I don't know what I think until I start writing. It's like the process of writing IS the process of thought.
One of my favorite books of all time is The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker. It's a slim novella, and the entire book takes place in the span of a lunch hour. The book's plot is: "guy breaks both of his shoelaces, goes to CVS to replace them." Not so much a potboiler, then. But really the book is about what goes on in the guy's head. It's stream of consciousness, but not in a nonsensical or rambling way. The book is filled with perfect little observations, like how escalators look like a pair of integral signs. It has copious footnotes, which is funny because the entire book is one big digression to begin with.
Baker later went on to achieve a small measure of fame as the author of The Fermata, a book about this guy who has the ability to stop time, and uses it to look up ladies' dresses. The Fermata had its moments-- especially when delving into the precise mechanics of time stoppage. What happens when you dive into a river? Is it frozen solid, or do the laws of physics (and thus the passage of time) continue to operate in the space immediately around you?
In The Mezzanine I remember there's one point where the guy makes a chart of recurring thoughts and the approximate frequency with which they occur. Or maybe it was a chart of the thoughts he'd had that day and how long they'd lasted. If I were to make a chart like the former, the thought of making a chart like the latter would have approximate frequency of once every seven years.
Having examined the contents of my head from some random day 7 years ago, I find that the only constant is sex.