Non-Linearity Of Thought

Do YOU have a NON-LINEAR mind?
For centuries, a relatively small portion of society has been made up of a number of people that often don’t seem to “fit in” with those around them. They seem to march to a different drummer; while the rest of the world is moving in 2/2 or 4/4 time, those who think non-linearly are running a Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich drum solo! The highly creative, highly distractable mind that craves activity and stimulation, even to the point of being driven to these things by forces unknown and irresistable, also invites ridicule and criticism, or even envy. In fact, some people may even display fear or hatred for those who do not think as they do, who do not seem to fit into the convenient mold that such people invent for themselves, and expect others to fit into.

No, for the non-linear minded individual, it’s not enough to graduate high school, maybe even getting a college degree or going to some trade school, then to go work for some company somewhere for 45 years, and then retire on Social Security. Such a boring and mundane and un-creative and SECURE life is so apalling, so repulsive to the non-linear minded person that they constantly seek some kind of escape from the prison of such a lifestyle. And, a prison it is, to be tied to TIME, each day a copy of the one before, day after day after day after horrid repetitious day.

Do YOU have a non-linear mind? You might, if you:

  • hear music running in your head
  • can manage multiple projects at the same time
  • constantly ‘scan’ your environment, responding to the slightest change
  • can’t sit still for more than a short time
  • are a chronic ‘thrill seeker’
  • would rather walk around a store for 30 minutes than wait in line for 5
  • always find yourself ‘a little bit late’, and NEVER early.
  • are highly creative, always coming up with unique solutions
  • are a musician or artist at heart, but have a ‘day job’ to pay the bills
  • typically find yourself working at hours that most people use for sleeping
  • frequently turn 5 minute tasks into ‘all nighters’
  • can’t put something down until it’s finished
  • can’t seem to finish anything (a negative side-effect of having too many projects)
  • never ‘look at someone when they’re talking to you’ for more than 2 seconds without looking around the room [and are often falsely accused of ‘not listening’].
  • look around the room when talking to other people
  • find solutions to problems faster whenever you talk to yourself, out loud
  • usually ‘diddle with your fingers’ or chew pencils or tap your toes or do something similar
  • doodle during lectures instead of taking notes to keep your brain occupied
  • work or study with the radio or T.V. on because it actually helps you think
  • are always ‘putting off until tomorrow’
  • stay up all night browsing the internet instead of doing work
  • ‘tune out’ to the rest of the world when you’re concentrating (hyper-focus)
  • at times, think ‘in parallel’ where linear logic is suddenly replaced with a simultaneous ‘self-evidence’, and solutions become more intuitive than deductive.
  • can never seem to explain your logic to anyone else, but it always seems to work.
  • people often accuse you of acting without thinking, simply because you act and think at the same time (after all, it’s more efficient that way, isn’t it?)
  • when people try to teach you things, you can’t seem to learn unless you know ‘why’
  • you absolutely hate ‘rote memorization’ (for a list of better techniques, go HERE).


So, what is it that drives the non-linear person, then, to break out of the mold and invent, create, compose, and explore? Some would call this inner drive a “disorder”, and tell Johnny’s mother that Johnny has ‘Attention Defecit Disorder’, or ‘Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder’, as though not being able to sit through a BORING lecture without doodling, or playing with his pencil, or kicking his legs, or moving around in his seat, or scratching his nose, or SOMETHING to keep his highly active mind from going INSANE, is somehow a “deficiency” or a “disorder” or something that must be FIXED because somehow, there’s something WRONG with Johnny. Or, maybe Johnny can’t learn to read at school because his school uses the highly ineffective ‘Look/Say’ reading method (instead of phonics), which requires ROTE memorization, a method that so HORRIFIES the non-linear minded person as to prevent him from even attempting it. So, instead of being a GIFTED and CREATIVE child, Johnny is treated as though he is ‘slow’, or ‘learning disabled’, or ‘Attention Deficit’.

AND, if you don’t think that ‘gummint’ is interfering too much in this arena, well, just check out THIS (a news story from May 2000 – the original link has broken, though it is also broken on the main ‘’ web site. A nearly identical page can also be found HERE), and also THIS, and if these cases don’t anger you, or even motivate you to action, they SHOULD…

I hope, by my examples, I am evoking an emotional response to the way in which the hypothetical ‘Johnny’ has been treated, categorized, and clinically labeled as “deficient” by people who are completely ignorant of how his brain works. Yet, some of you reading this may say ‘I know just what it’s like’. Others of you may be curious as to why I am writing these things. Well, read on, ladies and gentlemen. It gets much better from here.

According to Thom Hartmann, author and editor of books like “Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception” and “Think Fast! The ADD Experience”,would instead say that those whom I would qualify as the ‘non-linear thinkers’ are the ‘hunters’ in our society, and those whom I would qualify as the ‘linear thinkers’ are the ‘farmers’ in our society, based upon social growth from the 2 basic primitive society types: The ‘hunter/gatherers’and the ‘farmers’.

The ‘hunter/gatherer’ societies lived their lives constantly roaming and searching for food, and they must be very aware of their surroundings at all times, eyes constantly looking about, and always ready to jump and go after their prey, or avoid some predator that may make lunch out of them. They must be able to find things that are normally well-hidden, notice even slight changes in their peripheral vision, and react to them almost instinctively. They must also be ‘on the spot creative’, able to adapt quickly to unpredictable and rapidly changing conditions. Their children inhereted the genetic pre-disposition to this sort of behavior, which successfully sustained their society.

The ‘farmer’ societies, however, lived by time and seasons, storing things for the future, and doing the same things, day after day, year after year, century after century. Such societies were made up of people whose minds worked in a linear fashion, as tilling precedes sowing, and sowing precedes weeding and watering and caring for the crops, which preceded harvesting, followed by canning and preserving, before winter weather forced them mostly indoors, to wait until spring again. Their children inhereted the genetic pre-disposition to this sort of behavior, which successfully sustained their society as well. However, farming is more a efficient way of getting food than is hunting and gathering, so farming societies eventually prevailed.

Putting a ‘hunter’ in a ‘farmer’s’ job, though, could be disastrous. The ‘hunter’ mindset would never be satisfied with merely planting and waiting for the seeds to grow. No, he’d probably pull up a few plants to see if they were “doing ok”, or go crazy waiting for sprouts to appear. Or, he’d find some other project to work on that was more ‘interesting’, and the field would begin to suffer from habitual neglect. No, the ‘hunter’ wouldn’t fit in the farmer society very well, would he? Yet, that’s exactly what’s happening to the non-linear mined people of our modern society. They are being expected to behave like the other 90% of the population with linear minds, but cannot because their brains just don’t work that way.

So, the non-linear minded people, living in a linear world, generally learn some form of ‘coping skills’ to deal with abstract issues like time, or communicate with people who cannot understand the non-linear tendency to say “A, B, ALPHABET” instead of “A,B,C,D,E,F….Z” (Even I ‘skipped the middle’ to avoid boredom). The linear minded person expects to get all of the steps in between, which are often so intuitively obvious to the non-linear minded person that he sees absolutely no point in mentioning them, and is thus labeled ‘irrational’ or disregarded completely by his peers. As such, non-linear minded people tend to seek one another out, and choose careers that are compatible with non-linearity of thought, or even TAYLOR MADE for it.

Typical careers that are ideal for non-linear minds could be (but are not limited to):

  • Musician
  • Artist
  • Actor or stand-up comic
  • Author
  • Engineer (including software)
  • Research Scientist
  • Trial Lawyer
  • Trauma Surgeon or E.M.T.
  • Military
  • Police/Fire
  • Pilot
  • Sailor or commercial fisherman
  • Automotive or Appliance Repair


The skills that make a person a good ‘hunter’, high creativity and adaptation to new situations, as well as the ability to notice things that are ‘out of the ordinary’, and think VERY QUICKLY, make the non-linear minded person IDEAL for such careers. As well, jobs such as these contain enough variety to remain ‘interesting’ to someone whose mind constantly seeks out stimulation of one form or another.

Natural Selection and Our Modern Society

Until very recently, the linear-minded people dominated society, for agriculture was the primary means of generating food. ‘Farmer’ families were typically larger, and more successful. With some obvious exceptions of aboriginal people and migratory societies, the world favored the farmer. The resulting ‘natural selection’ process brought out more ‘farmer friendly’ genes within the normal distribution in the human population. As a result, post-industrial-revolution society continued in its time-based thinking, with employees willing to do menial jobs for decades, until that magical ‘retirement age.’ Security in their positions was more important than creativity. And the natural (slow) progress of advancement over time, and everything in its season, continued. At least, it continued for a while.

Now that we have entered the age of robotics and rapid world-wide information exchange, those who are most successful in our society are now the non-linear thinkers! The linear-minded people in modern industrial societies are having a tough time keeping up, and find themselves in ‘service’ kinds of roles. Regardless of the importance of a ‘service economy’ (which keeps the cash flowing, and is important within its own right) it is now the non-linear minded individual who earns more money and is therefore more likely to pass along his genetic material to the next generation. The makeup of society is slowly changing, in favor of the non-linear mind.

With some careful analysis, it seems that most of the famous musical composers, artists, inventors, scientists, and so on fall into this category of ‘non-linear minded’. And, the same analysis would reveal that these people were often misunderstood, mistreated, and (had they been in our ‘modern’ society) may even be considered to be somehow ‘deficient’ or to have some kind of ‘disorder’ and need some kind of ‘treatment’. Frankly, I think their success and fame ought to be a self-evident argument against such nonsense. There’s no ‘disorder’ here. These people are merely different than most of those around them, and their difference allowed them to EXCEL in ways that were unique and highly acclaimed.

The linearity or non-linearity of a person’s mind IS genetically pre-determined, but is not ‘black and white’. There tends to be various degrees of linearity or non-linearity. Some whose minds are TOO non-linear can actually end up being non-functional in a linear society, and it is for these people that ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’ applies. Often these people respond well to various medications (usually stimulants), which tend to stimulate only the ‘linear’ portions of their minds, in order to bring them up to speed with the rapidly moving non-linear cognitive part of their minds. It is no wonder, then, that the most of the highly creative people in our societies often crave caffeine, sugar, and even nicotene, to try to ‘straighten out’ their thinking enough to cope in a linear society, or stay focused on what they’re trying to do. Some people refer to this as ‘self-medication’, and this behavior may also explain why the abuse of drugs and alcohol is also common among those with non-linear minds. It is a potentially dangerous tendency that’s worth recognizing, and avoiding, if you believe yourself to have a non-linear mind.

Nearly all ‘pre-modern’ societies rose out of a class-based (or even a caste) system, for feudalism is often a part of the natural progression in social evolution. In countries like Japan, where the ‘Samurai’ was respected, the warrior class typically kept the non-linear gene pool alive. Similarly in Europe, the merchant class and the ‘knights’ also favored the non-linear minded person. But in the U.S.A., pioneering and the concept of ‘rugged individualism’ were all non-linear minded traits, and as European settlers moved west, and intermarried with native people (especially those who were migratory or hunter/gatherers), the gene pool became well-seeded with non-linear traits. It was the foreshadow of things to come.

So, is it no wonder that so many children are being ‘diagnosed’ nowadays as having AD[H]D when in fact they are simply “a different kind of ‘normal'”? That is, there is a significantly higher percentage of successful non-linear-minded people nowadays, and a resulting higher percentage of children with non-linear traits. Yet our linear-mind schools are based on a predominance of children who learn by rote, who are not bored sitting still, who think more slowly and must be taught the A to B to C to D instead of A…Z . Linear-minded children can’t rapidly see the connections that the nonlinear-minded child can easily comprehend, because their minds just don’t work the same way. Similarly, non-linear-minded children don’t easily comprehend the time-based curriculum that linear-minded children have no trouble with. So without parents spending time teaching their non-linear-minded children the necessary coping skills, to deal with the linear world, to learn the ‘better method’ that the teacher doesn’t tell them about, they end up bored or frustrated in school, and are labeled “learning disabled” instead of ‘different.’ The schools have often latched on to the ‘drug the child’ policy, using government programs to pay for it, and in some cases, heavy-handed tactics to force parents into complying.

But the motivation behind this sort of treatment of the non-linear minded person by our society may simply be the reaction to a change in the genetic makeup. Perhaps the linear-minded people ‘feel’ as though they are losing the control that they have always had. Perhaps they ‘feel’ threatened. And, quite possibly, they are viewing the non-linear minded children (whom they do not understand) as a ‘problem’ instead of ‘a natural part of the genetic makeup of human existence’. And so they seek to ‘cure’ a perceived problem, using the only means they can conceive of: Drugs. It may simply be a struggle for dominance. Let us hope that in the future, if non-linear-minded people dominate those that are linear-minded, that they are not treated so badly.

As a musician, and a software engineer and consultant, I take advantage of the ability to juggle several things at the same time, to think “in parallel”, to visualize projects before I actually build them, to ‘play music’ in my head before I compose it, and to redeem every second of my day, if I can. Sure, I hate distractions, those things that break my concentration, but I’m somewhat used to it. Maybe it just makes things more interesting in the long run. Still, I’m often misunderstood, or treated as though I’m un-intelligent, by those linear-minded people in our society that just don’t understand. It seems that some things just never change.

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