“If your life is like my life, there are within it brief stretches, usually a week to ten days long, when your mind achieves a polished and freestanding coherence. The chanting tape-loops of poetry anthologies, the crumbly pieces of philosophy, the unsmelted barbarisms, the litter torn from huge collisions of abandoned theories - all this nomadic sub-orbital junk suddenly, like a milling street crowd in a movie-musical, re-forms itself into a proud, pinstriped, top-hatted commonwealth. Your opinions become neat and unruffleable. Every new toy design, ever abuse of privilege or gesture of philanthropy, every witnessed squabble at the supermarket checkout counter, is smoothly remade into evidence for five or six sociological truths. Puffed up enough to be charitable, you stop urging your point with twisting jabs of your fork; you happily concede winnable arguments to avoid injuring the feelings of your friends; your stock of proverbs from Samuel Johnson seems elegant and apt in every context; you are firm, you think fast, you offer delicately phrased advice.
Then one Thursday, out on a minor errand, you inexplicably come to a new conclusion (“Keynesian economics is spent”), and it - like the fetching plastic egg that cruel experimenters have discovered will cause a mother bird to thrust her own warm, speckled ones from the nest - upsets your equilibrium. The community of convictions flies apart, you sense unguessed contradictions, there are disavowals, frictions, second thoughts, please for further study; you stare in renewed perplexity out the laundromat’s plate-glass window, while your pulped library card dries in a tumbling shirt pocket behind you.
Such alert intermissions happen only infrequently: most of the time we are in some inconclusive phases of changing our minds about many, if not all, things. We have no choice. Our opinions, gently nudged by circumstance, revise themselves under cover of inattention. We tell them, in a steady voice, No, I’m not interested in a change at present. But there is no stopping opinions. They don’t care about whether we want to hold them or not; they do what they have to do.”
— Nicholson Baker in his essay ‘Changes of Mind’.