There is this idea of mental excretion; the notion that most of what stirs in our heads as thoughts are actually a sort of fecal matter. A man eats and the dross vacates through the appropriate channel. He drinks, and the excess fluids run their natural course. These are the two modes of consumption in which we are left with no choice but to understand quite easily how ‘what enters also departs’, leaving us with only their essence. Yet the mode of perceptual consumption, where everything we hear, read, say or do which is linked to words and thoughts, also sheds a form of mental dross. The only difference is that while food and drink are considered external to us, and are therefore plainly recognized as separate, we have great trouble detaching ourselves to the activity of the mind in a similar fashion.
A man hears a song on his way to work and later listens to the conversation of two others while riding up the elevator. He reads and gleans a few titillating details from the newspaper and shares a conversation about one them with a colleague. All of these perceptions and moments are ingested and a part of each is imprinted into his memory. The other elements of these perceptions, having left no trace in his mind, and therefore lost forever, still need to travel through him before they can depart as dross. Like the blood which passes through the highways of our arteries and veins, there are paved roads in our head which allow this mental loam to travel. There is a dim light of attention always turned on within us at every waking moment, and it is this function which allows us to experience this perceptual fecal run its proper course.
This all refers, of course, to the never-ending associations which pop-up and disappear through the activity of our minds. While a man is granted the ability to not only associate automatically, but also think actively and intentionally, he seldom practices the latter capacity and robs it of the chance to develop and grow. Like night and day, associations and intentional thoughts serve as two sides of the same coin. One reflects sleep; the other wakefulness. During the one-third of our day in which a man sleeps, this automatic functioning of the dross of his mind will often appear in the form of dreams. Yet during the day, he lacks the motivation or desire to think in an active and intelligent way, and therefore awards his associative mind with the sole performance on his psychological stage.
We identify ourselves with almost everything, but most especially with those integral parts of ourselves which are hard to see. Our associations, this river of endless thoughts which connect with others and run towards some undefined and accidental path, is without a doubt alien to our identity. It is a function, like a conveyor belt which carries the bits and pieces of what was formerly a living moment of experience. Left without an objective guidebook on what our mind actually is and what it is composed of, a man will simply believe himself to be these random thoughts. He will be, as a matter of fact, dreaming through his day in a manner quite similar to how he does at night. This is the general rule, permitting, like with all other rules, that exceptions will and do arise. We are therefore, without our knowing, sleeping both day and night.