Absent

‘Absent-minded’ has become a synonym for ‘foolish’ or ‘stupid’. I consider myself absent-minded, but neither of those other two descriptors. Absent-minded is not lacking in common sense or logical deduction. It is, as it sounds, simply an absence of recognition of your immediate situation, a preoccupation with something else.

I’ll go into the kitchen for a drink, for instance, and my wife will ask me to get her a biscuit. Seconds later I’ll return, sit down on the couch and, over my glass of water, wonder why she’s staring at me, biscuitless. There’s a bit of a running joke that, if I go to get two things, I’ll have a 50% success rate. This, to some, is seen as not having the mental capacity to remember two things for more than a few seconds. Thankfully, this is not the case.

Here’s what seems to happen in that process. I’m sitting down and think “I need a drink”. That thought sticks in my head and I rise. Already, I’m on auto-pilot, I’ve programmed in my mission so now my brain is free to think about something else. So my conscious mind goes “Get drink”, that thought gets pushed to some task-related part of my brain while the conscious mind goes elsewhere. When the wife asks “Can you get me a biscuit” I manage to respond, but already I’m amid thoughts of “Did I send that email?…What book should I buy next?…What size is the biggest shark?”.

I am a childish brain in an adult’s body. My mind cares little for dull, grown-people things like insurance documents and laundry. It wants to think about other things and, when given the chance, it does.

What were we talking about?

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