As I had a more than usually busy Sabbath yesterday, I did not have the chance to have a great deal of interpersonal interactions with other people because I did a fair amount of rushing about hither and yon. During one of my brief pauses between running around I had a humorous interaction with someone who had a recent birthday, and who made a comment about a movie she thought was called Pocatardis. I gently suggested that the movie was likely Pocahontas, but she was having none of it. Of course, the silliness gave me an idea, as I thought what a movie like Pocatardis would be like? Would Captain John Smith be a time lord, with Pocahontas as his companion, and the two of them traveling throughout the universe in the TARDIS in the guise of colonial people in the Doctor Who universe ? Although it was a very silly interaction, it was also a good way to come up with an interesting idea. As someone who has way too many ideas for things to write, it is worthwhile for me to notice the sort of interactions that tend to inspire such writing and pondering on my point.
As it happens, that particular interaction happened shortly after we finished our sermonette workshop. In our previous sermonette workshop, we had been given some homework in thinking about a verse to brainstorm a sermonette with. I was one of the three people who submitted a verse, and I used it as a thought experiment. In working on the verse myself and mulling it over, I found the scope to the somewhat large, requiring a series of messages. In the course of the discussion, I found that the passages I had in mind were on the mind of a few other people as well who were drawing the same conclusions, but I also found that other people struggled to keep the scope of the message small as well. In chatting with the person who ran the sermonette workshop afterward, he thought that a few people in particular could have used the approach of doing a thought experiment of just walking around a message before giving it, and making sure that the scope was reasonable for a sermonette, including a couple of people who were not there. And despite the fact that it wasn’t as enjoyable an experience as it could have been, it was useful to see that I was not the only person who struggled to find focus when looking at some of the verses I am fond of. Sometimes what one has in mind is simply too big to put in a small package, and that is certainly true with many of the subjects on my mind.
Truthfully, as a philosophically inclined person, thought experiments come somewhat easily to me, sometimes even a bit too easily . What is the point of a thought experiment? Sometimes one is trying to find out if a given thought is worth exploring in length, and doing a thought experiment is like taking a hike around the boundaries of the topic, trying to get a grasp on what sort of scope the particular idea deals with. At times, doing a thought experiment can provoke certain research or actions in order to gain a better understanding of the material in question, or can convince us that the scope is just too massive for us to deal with at the time, as was the case with my sermonette idea. By walking around the boundaries of a given thought and getting a grasp of it, we see how large of a tree we are trying to hug, and sometimes it ends up like Jonah walking around the boundaries of the Ninevah district, marking out the area that is within those boundaries.
There are other reasons why one can and should engage in thought experiments. There are simply some thoughts that would be horrifying to actually practice, like my idea of using a logistical strategy to starve out leftists in the United States in the face of our contemporary political crisis. In performing a thought experiment we examine how a given course of action could be taken and conceived of, even if we would shrink in terror from actually behaving in such a fashion ourselves. There are a great many actions that are within the realm of the conceivable and possible for human beings to engage in that are far beyond the boundaries of what human beings should do. Sometimes engaging in a thought experiment can have a moral function. If we, for example, engage in a thought experiment to see how a given course of action, say in a romantic relationship, might work out, as I do on a fairly regular but also generally private basis, we encourage our own restraint by seeing where things could go if we let them. Often we simply do not want to let things get out of hand, and in order to prevent that we must think things out ahead of time. Sometimes to think means to avoid doing, and in such a case it is all the better that we should think about what we are about, so that we might go about it in a more godly fashion. There are so many ways we can go wrong, so we should at least identify as many of the false trails to disaster as possible while we walk the straight and narrow.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: