• have (a course of action) as one's purpose or objective - OED
  • perhaps we can cast this as the unconscious or subconscious mind

The tree of intent

I can intend or tend toward. My intent breeds purpose: it means, it aspires, it envisions, it designs, it proposes, it plans. My attention needs an object, a target. I can only attend or tend to something that exists. Whereas I can intend something that does not exist. My intent only needs an aim.

Intent drives change. Like attention, we can direct our intent inward or outward, but it needs a specific aim.

Inward intent drives change within oneself. "I am done lying!" My intention is set. Only I will know if I lie. Free will comes with an individual, non-transferrable sense of truth. Others may think I am lying when I am not. My endeavor to speak the truth must start with inward intent. We shape the quality of our being with every intention.

Outward intent drives change in others. "I want everyone to test this theory of everything for themselves!" I am expressing this intention in the words you now read. An intention can remain unexpressed, it only needs an aim. When you hear of intentions, your mind may parrot, as mine does: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." We will come back to aitch-ee-double-hockeysticks, but I can offer a remix with less brimstone: Kept intentions invite oblivion.

For example, if you attend a petri dish through a microscope and observe an amoeba consuming a paramecium, you can posit that the amoeba possesses inward attention (noticing hunger), outward attention (noticing prey), outward intent (intending to grasp), and inward intent (intending to grow). The amoeba is then a conscious being shaped by evolution to exhibit some effective behaviors, which are guided by attention and driven by intention. As with those lacking attention, others that cannot intend changes for themselves or others are non-conscious.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, it makes the sound it intended to make. Every drop of water and molecule of soil this tree intently slurped from the ground and channeled up its trunk to its limbs, and branches, and leaves, and every ray of sun it stretched its green intent toward, and every feeling the tree may have experienced (bewilderment in a lightning storm, perhaps), and every sensation and perception the tree experienced as it directed its attention inward and outward formed this very tree into its precise state of being at the moment it falls in the forest with no one around. The sound it makes is a song it took its whole life to write, a song it plays triumphantly with its family and friends who attend its practices as they grow nearby. If that tree happens to be a member of an eighty-thousand year-old clonal colony like Pando in Fishlake National Forest, you can bet that song will be well polished.

Then we come to the wind-carved boulder teetering upon the sawtooth mountain ridge. When it finally slips, and tumbles amok through the scree down the slope into the valley below, does it intend the havoc it wreaks? Did the boulder intend the shape it took? Did it notice the ridge eroding away beneath it or observe the valley below? Did it aim?

Will is applied intent.