What’s good thinking? Is someone who has read lots going to have better thoughts about the Horniman Museum than me?


I went there yesterday with the friend who’d shown me the Flat Stanley story. We plan to take the rest of our MA class there for a reading/writing group next week. We spent the afternoon looking at the displays and talking about the texts we plan to distribute beforehand, and devising writing activities that sit between the texts, the museum, and the specific interest we have in putting them together.

In the meantime we’re trying to home in on what this specific interest specifically is. On the way home we sat down and made more notes and drew arrows between them, and underlined important bits, and wrote down things one another said, and reread parts of the texts, and decided we were getting somewhere, but we’d have to go home and give it more thought.

We’re enjoying the struggle of gathering together of our various ideas, which are still a bit disparate at the moment but have threads that tug at one another as though there’s some secret they’re trying to tell us (or trying to slip past us without us noticing). Discovering the edges of new thoughts is very exciting. Finding agreements between unconnected things is very exciting. Making ideas that weren’t there before, but that once they’re there you keep coming back to them again and again, because now you need them to be there, is very exciting.

The process of making ideas is messy and stupid and brilliant and mistaken and brave and above all it’s a big thing. Making things up is a big mental event. If you put machines on us to measure the brain movements there would be flashes on the grid when we do this kind of work, and the flash would be no smaller if unbeknown to us some idea of ours had already been thought before, a hundred times, to the point of tedium, and written away into Heidegger and Badiou. And if I’d read in a book that same idea, rather than so messily and thrillingly making it myself, there would be a glimmer of excitement – of discovery, and of working it into my thoughts – but not leaps and sparks. The idea would have come at me prepared, and labelled, and ready, and that is not as good.