French Fries with salt

Sorting of Incoming Ideas: Insights from the French Fry Machine Metaphor

We have been discussing the origin of ideas, thoughts, and information that come into our minds.

I have met many who struggle with understanding why it is vital to become skilled at pre-sorting, or discerning the substance and origin of these ideas before processing them. 

The following metaphor has helped many to understand the concept and to be motivated to become more skilled in this area. 

The Parable of the French Fry Machine offers a clarifying perspective to help us discern and respond successfully to ideas that come toward our minds.

The Parable of the French Fry Making Machine

Once upon a time, in a quaint village known for its lush potato fields, there stood the loved and admired French Fry Making Machine.

This machine was no ordinary contraption; it was a marvel of ingenuity and diligence, much like the minds of the villagers who operated it. 

It was designed to produce the most delicious, golden French Fries.  The villagers and visitors to the town from far away loved and looked forward to the final product every time the machine was used.

Of course, it made sense that in order to have the greatest French Fries, you would have to feed the machine the greatest of potatoes. 

In the fields, under the watchful eyes and diligent hands of the villagers, an arduous and meticulously planned process took place every day.  This process demonstrated the single-minded determination of the villagers to yield the most exceptional potatoes possible, the very essence of their beloved craft.

They chose their seeds carefully.  They watered the potato plants just right.  They chased away insects and disease.  The exposed the plants to ideal sunlight.

When it was time for the daily harvest, the process started with a digger that used a special blade to unearthed the potatoes.  This was followed by pushing the potatoes onto a metal-linked conveyor belt. Sounds simple enough.

But the journey of the potato was not without its challenges.

potatoes with dirt on them

The conveyor belt that pulled the potatoes from the earth was also prone to picking up unwanted elements from the fields – dirt clods, rocks, sticks, and even occasional manure.

It was vitally important these unwanted items did not make their way into the French Fry Making Machine!

To ensure the purity and quality of the fries, the villagers began their most important work. 

Sorters of differing skill and speed levels stationed themselves along the conveyor belt. Their job was critical; it was their responsibility to meticulously remove the rocks, sticks, and other unwanted debris, leaving only the clean and healthy potatoes to enter the French Fry Making Machine.

If the process went as planned, the glorious potatoes slid smoothly into the miraculous French Fry Making Machine. The machine was a sight to behold. It had several shiny and sharp components which had been refined and improved over generations. 

Each piece and process was essential in transforming the humble potato into golden, delicious fries. 

First was the intake funnel, where the potatoes slid from the sorting conveyor belt into the machine. Then came the slicer, loaded with sharp blades and powered by a strong and fast  spring, would slam down on the unsuspecting potato, cutting it into perfect, uniform strips.

As the blades lifted from the newly sliced potato, a predesigned mechanism would then drop the potatoes into a vat of crisp and clean hot oil.  Small metal fingers would stir the slices of potato around in the oil, thus cooking them to perfection.

When the time was right, a mechanism built into the machine would flip the hot fries onto a shaking tray, tossing the fries softly as it seasoned them just right. The tasty fries were then tumbled into a cooling basket. 

The final, delightful product – perfect, beautiful, golden, crispy yet soft French Fries were scooped into generous serving cups for each to enjoy!

What a heavenly outcome…if only it was that easy…

Unfortunately, these happy villagers had an enemy. 

A local, sad soul, hated the Fry Machine and the golden fries it produced.  (If you can’t figure it out, we are talking about Satan here.) 

Sadly, despite the vigilance of the sorters on the conveyor belt, there were times when the ‘enemy’ – the mischievous saboteur – would successfully disrupt the process. This cruel enemy was not satisfied with dirt, rocks and sticks.

It was not beyond him to throw in a wet cow pie, carefully disguised as a beautiful potato, onto the conveyor belt right before the potatoes entered the processor.

As you can imagine, such an act would make a huge mess of the entire French fry making machine! 

The precision slicing blades would slam down on the wet cowpie spatting disgusting goo all over the machine.  The stinky slop would then be dropped into the hot oil, sputtering and splattering everywhere. 

The mechanical fingers would stir whe stench filled ooze all around in the oil, then the fried yuck would be flipped into the shaking tray, possibly on top of some already finished delicious fries from the last batch. 

The salted sludge would then fall on to the other fries in the cooling rack, contaminating everything and possibly making it into a serving container on its way to shocking an unsuspecting french fry enthusiast’s taste buds.

Such ruthless sabotage would be a complete catastrophe. 

It would require the workers to stop the machine and waste hours thoroughly cleaning all the pieces of the slicer. All the precious oil would have to be thrown away and replaced after a deep clean, high pressure wash of the machine, inside and out. 

Conveyer belt

All the moving parts would need to be re-purified. 

Any contaminated fries in the shaker or the cooling basket would have to be thrown away.  The shaker and cooling basket would have to be cleaned and purified before using them again.  Production would be delayed. 

Even after everything was cleaned up, the smell might linger for hours, and the enemy would just laugh and laugh.

And so, the villagers learned, as should we, the importance of vigilance, attentiveness and discernment when watching what gets into the famous French Fry Making Machine.

We will need to do the same if we hope to produce delicious ideas from our mental processors.  


The French Fry Machine metaphor provides a vivid and relatable analogy for understanding the complexities of mental processing.

Let’s delve deeper into its components and their symbolic meanings:

The Machine: The Human Mind

Central to the metaphor is the French Fry Machine, representing your mind. This machine is not just a passive recipient of inputs but an active processor, shaping and transforming what it receives, usually with the intent of producing glorious ideas. Your mind, like the machine, is intricate, with many moving parts that much be carefully developed, and requires proper care and maintenance to function optimally.

Potatoes: Raw Thoughts and Experiences

In this metaphor, potatoes symbolize the raw thoughts, experiences, and sensory inputs that we have intentionally cultivated. It is hoped that only intentionally grown and sorted ideas make their way into our cognitive processor. 

Just as potatoes are the basic ingredient for making fries, our thoughts and experiences are the foundational elements of our mental processes. These potatoes can come in different shapes and sizes.  There is a wide diversity of experiences, ideas and philosophies in this world, that when processed can yield beautiful results.  

The Conveyor Belt

The metaphor of the “Conveyor Belt” in the French Fry Machine and Stephen Covey’s concept of “the space between stimulus and response” from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, share insightful parallels in how they represent the process of decision-making and response to external stimuli.

In the French Fry Machine metaphor, the conveyor belt serves as a critical but brief space in time where potatoes and other objects (representative of incoming thoughts or stimuli) can be sorted and examined before they enter the fry-making process.

This sorting process, if used intentionally, symbolizes a deliberate and conscious choice to evaluate and decide which elements will proceed into your cognitive processor. Similarly, Covey’s concept emphasizes the crucial interval that exists between encountering a stimulus and reacting to it.

This space is where individuals have the opportunity to assess the stimulus, reflect on their values and principles, and choose a response that aligns with their personal objectives and character, rather than reacting instinctively or impulsively.

Both descriptions of this pre-cognitive concept underscore the importance of mindful deliberation and the exercise of choice in determining our actions and responses by keeping a close eye on what is allowed to go into our minds. 

The Cow Pies
Cows in field

In the metaphor of the French Fry Machine, the camouflaged wet cow pies, deceitfully thrown onto the conveyor belt by the enemy, represent the insidious and harmful thoughts or influences that can invade our minds.

This ‘enemy’, often referred to by President Nelson an, “The Adversary and his minions” is Satan; he who strategically and incessantly attempts to disrupt and corrupt the purity and effectiveness of our mental processes.

Psychology philosophers who are not quite ready to believe in the reality of Satan have at least evolved into an awareness of a psychological experience that they are now calling “Intrusive Thoughts”.  They have oversee that unwanted, values and character contradicting thoughts can enter the mind intrusively, but they have not been able to assess the origin. 

It is unfortunate that a political agreement made over a century ago, to keep science and spirituality separate, continues to keep the science of psychology (the study of the spirit or soul) from vital concepts like this.

Back to the lessons to be learned from our metaphor:  The experience of a wet cow pie, disguised as a potato getting smashed by the slicer’s sharp blades leads to contamination of the whole system.

This is an unpleasant but memorable image of how deceptive and damaging Intrusive Thoughts can be. They may initially appear harmless or acceptable, much like a regular potato, but once processed, their true destructive nature is revealed, causing chaos and requiring extensive effort to rectify.

As you can visualize, Intrusive Thoughts, when not recognized and discarded quickly and efficiently, before they are processed, can contaminate our perspective, leading to a polluted mental environment, and really unfortunate tasting ideas coming out of our mental processor.

The extensive cleanup required after any cow pie enters your processor parallels the substantial effort needed to clean out negative thoughts or influences.

This parable is meant to  highlight the need for vigilance, attentiveness, and discernment in monitoring the thoughts and influences that are constantly moving toward our minds.

Just as the villagers learned to be more watchful to protect the integrity of their French Fry Machine, with increased discernment, skill and speed, we can similarly protect our mental processors and enjoy the experience of delicious French Fries as only good potatoes make their way into our cognitive processors.

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As you can see, learning to intentionally use Precognitive Sorting, has a significant impact on how we experience cognitive processing and the outcome or final product of our thoughts and feelings. 

With training and practice, each of us can get skilled at the process of early assessment, filtering, and evaluation of thoughts before they undergo deeper cognitive processing. With training and practice, we can develop a gatekeeper within your mind that examines incoming ideas for potential usefulness or harm.

As you can see, this skill is needed for protecting mental health, for defending against damaging thoughts, and for enhancing cognitive efficiency by prioritizing thoughts worth further exploration.

Precognitive sorting also aids in emotional regulation and nurturing positive thought patterns, much like removing rocks or debris from potatoes in the French Fry Machine, ensuring only the best quality thoughts are processed.

This ability, improving with training and practice, is crucial in aligning thoughts with personal goals and well-being.  It would be really nice if the only thing we had to worry about during the sorting process was rocks, sticks and dirt clods that were naturally pulled onto the conveyor belt with the potatoes.  But…


The Enemy and his Unpleasant Disruptions

The Parable of the French Fry Machine reminds us of the intelligent, cruel, strategic and nefarious “Enemy” who is willing to go above and beyond rocks, sticks and dirt clods. 

If we are going to enjoy a smooth functioning cognitive process and the delicious fries that are produced, we must be aware of the possibility and probability of a subtle adversary trying to sneak cow pies into the machine, disrupting its smooth operation and creating a real, stinky mess.

Identifying the ‘Enemy’: Negative Influences and Disruptive Thoughts

The first improvement your system will require is an increase in the Spirit of Discernment. While unwanted materials like rocks and sticks might be easily identified, camouflaged cow pies are often not easily distinguishable from potatoes in the sorting process.  As you learned from the Radio Trick story, negative influences and disruptive thoughts often mask themselves in your own voice or in a voice that you are inclined to trust.  These can be in the form of self-doubt, anxiety, pessimism, or external influences like misinformation, including distortions of the thoughts and feelings of people in your life or toxic media that passes itself off as acceptable in the mainstream, etc, etc.  We most often refer to these Satanic attacks in 3 categories that we will discuss in more detail later: Temptation, Torment and Turmoil.

Precognitive Sorting

Precognitive sorting, akin to the sorting done by machine operators, is needed to protect your cognitive processor. It involves the conscious effort to evaluate thoughts and influences as they are pulled into your brain.  Ever improving Discernment is needed to determine whether the ideas are beneficial or harmful. This process gives each of us the opportunity to intercept and discard negative thoughts before they enter the processing stages of the mind, much like removing rocks and other debris from a conveyor belt before it damages the machinery.

Some Strategies for Effective Precognitive Sorting

  • Awareness and Mindfulness: Becoming increasingly aware of one’s thought patterns and emotional responses is key. Mindfulness practices can enhance this awareness, allowing for early detection of negative influences.
  • Critical Evaluation: Assessing the validity and usefulness of incoming thoughts or external influences helps in determining their appropriateness for further mental processing.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Understanding and managing one’s emotions can aid in distinguishing between constructive and destructive thoughts.
  • Building Resilience: Developing resilience through positive experiences, learning, and personal growth helps strengthen the mind’s ability to reject harmful influences.
  • Reducing Cognitive Overload: In the digital age, where information is abundant and constantly streaming, our minds can become overwhelmed. Precognitive sorting helps in managing this influx, reducing cognitive overload. By prioritizing which thoughts to focus on and which to let go, we avoid mental clutter (See “Intentional Neglect”). This Selective Attention not only preserves mental energy but also enhances our ability to concentrate and engage in deep, meaningful thought processes.
  • Cultivating Positive Ideas: Precognitive sorting is instrumental in nurturing positive ideas. By consciously choosing to focus on constructive and uplifting thoughts (planting many good “potatoes” in advance), we create a mental environment conducive to optimism and positivity. This, in turn, influences our overall outlook on life, our interactions with others, and our capacity to handle challenges. Like the French Fry Machine producing the desired golden, crispy fries, our mind, too, can yield thoughts that enhance our well-being and quality of life.
  • Personal Growth: The practice of precognitive sorting is necessary for healthy personal growth and development. By being selective about the ideas and thoughts we intentionally allow into our French Fry Machine, we steer our mental processes towards learning, self-improvement, and wisdom. It’s about choosing the ‘nutritious potatoes’ that will eventually turn into valuable insights and knowledge, rather than the ‘rocks or manure’ that disrupt our mental machinery.

Positive Results of PreSorting Successfully:

  • Mental Energy Conservation: Our cognitive resources are finite; every thought that goes into the processor consumes some part of this resource. When unproductive, negative, or irrelevant thoughts enter our mental process, they consume energy that could be better utilized for creative and productive endeavors. Just as a French Fry Machine would waste energy and resources if it processed poor-quality potatoes, our minds waste energy on thoughts that do not contribute to our goals or well-being.
  • Nurturing Creativity: Creativity flourishes in a mind that isn’t bogged down by irrelevant or negative thoughts. When our mental space is clear, it becomes a fertile ground for innovation and creative thinking. The precognitive sorting of thoughts ensures that our mental energy is directed towards constructive and creative thinking, rather than being dissipated on counterproductive rumination. In the metaphor, this is similar to ensuring that only the best potatoes are used, leading to the production of the finest fries.
  • Efficient Problem-Solving: Efficient problem-solving is another aspect enhanced by this method. By keeping our mental processes streamlined and focused, we can approach problems more effectively. The French Fry Machine, running without the interference of unsuitable materials, symbolizes a mind that tackles problems without the clutter of irrelevant thoughts, leading to clearer, more innovative solutions.
  • The Ripple Effect on Daily Life: The impact of precognitive sorting extends beyond specific tasks to our overall daily life. A mind trained to focus on productive and creative thoughts is more likely to experience moments of insight, leading to improvements in personal and professional life. This is akin to the French Fry Machine consistently producing high-quality fries, satisfying not just an immediate need but enhancing the overall reputation and success of its operation.

Improving the speed and accuracy of your Discernment takes time and practice.  Identifying and discarding the negative influences and disruptive thoughts of the Enemy is an ongoing process that requires vigilance and adaptability.

Just as the machine operators must be alert to remove any unsuitable elements from the conveyor belt, we must actively engage in precognitive sorting to maintain mental clarity and emotional balance.

By mastering this process, we can ensure that our mental French Fry Machine continues to produce the ‘golden, crispy yet soft French fries’ of a well-balanced and insightful mind.

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