The Power of Ideas
Ideas are the means by which we construct or frame reality. How we frame reality shapes of our views, values, desires, and subsequent actions. Not only do our ideas shape our experience, they possess the power to give meaning to our experience! Meaning is what keeps us going in this life. Needless to say, ideas are pretty darn important! And today, our ideas are shaping the trajectory of life on this planet in such a way that baffles the imagination. Not only are we creating awesome technologies that enhance the human experience, unfortunately we are also the bearers of ideas that are contributing to the possibility of an uninhabitable planet, at least for most of life as we know it. Scientists are calling this time in the history of our planet the “anthropocene,” a time in which human behavior is profoundly shaping the inhabitable conditions of the planet. Yes, our ideas are shaping the trajectory of the planet! Awesome and scary as hell! The bad news is that our ‘bad’ ideas are catastrophic to life as we know it. If you want to know how ‘bad’ ideas are manifesting themselves in the world, just tune into the various news outlets. Been there, done that, far too long. But I still have moments when I need to vent. Nevertheless, I will not drag you into the quagmire of negativity. That just leads to cynicism, which is ultimately useless. I know this because I was a professional cynic, particularly when it came to politics! I will save politics for another post. At any rate, it is good to be aware of, and give due consideration to, the negative. For now, I’d rather focus on the positive because the good news is that we can entertain better ideas and consequently transform our world’s direction. Knowing this I am optimistic. I believe we can rise to the occasion with better ideas in order to confront the challenges we are facing, and there are a lot of ‘good’ ideas out there! They may not be popular, but they are out there demanding more of our attention.
We navigate our experience of reality via a story. In this conception of story I am using I include the lower instinctual mind as well as the higher intellectual mind. The higher intellectual mind is capable of superseding the lower mind. It is therefore the predominant faculty of our capacity to create a life story for ourselves. I admit this idea is a lot more complex than I am making it out to be. It would require pages to unpack, and I will save that for another time. Nonetheless, our story allows us to organize our experience. Our perceptions, beliefs, choices, and actions are essentially determined by our life story. So, there is a lot of value in constructing a well-informed and intelligently conceived story. Our story is a collection of ideas about reality arranged in a meaningful pattern that gives us a structure to live by. And ideas are a collection of words, which are symbols that represent features of reality. Words are used to name things. The naming of things allows us to mentally represent objects of our awareness. Those objects include the stuff of the mind as well as that of the senses. By naming things, we can ‘make up’ a story out of that which has been named. Wow! We can create an abstract mental representation of reality with words and use it to guide and shape our experience. Meditate on that for moment! We have the capacity to creatively manipulate reality by adapting it to our abstract play of symbolic words. Pretty damn kool! This abstract play with words is what we call thinking, and thinking is done in the realm of the imagination. By engaging the imagination through thinking and playing with ideas we conceive, manipulate, and shape reality. This is exactly how technologies are materialized. The material sciences create metaphorical models by naming the patterns observed in reality. The innovator playfully explores the imagination. Through trial and error the engineer conforms reality to the imagination using the metaphorical models created from the naming of the ‘stuff’ of reality. And voila! Like magic, there appears some of the finest of human creation: computers, smart phones, MRIs, etc. Amazing! This ability to manipulate and conform reality to our imagination can be used in practically any way we choose. And unfortunately, ill conceived, naïve, and shortsighted ideas have brought about some of the worst of human abominations, which have us on a probable path to life destruction on this planet. Note that it is only probable in terms of how we are currently using of our capacity to mold reality to our imagination. Our ideas are leading us down the path that we are on. The good news is that there are other just as probable scenarios based on different sets of ideas. Therefore, we can change the course of life on earth in a positive direction, if we choose to come up with some better ideas. So there is hope. Can we do it? Yes! Will we? I don’t know. I sure hope so. I have chosen to have faith in our capacity to do so, and do what I can to contribute to the probability of a beautiful world. Why not?
At any rate, now imagine if more of us were to explore ideas through the creative play of thinking, to address the challenges that we are facing in our world. In my mind, if we can create a smartphone, we can design sustainable technologies that are conducive to the well-being of the planet. We can shift our trajectory. We have the capacity to do so. We just have to want it badly enough to make it a reality. How do we arouse enough of us to do so is a subject for another post. What is important to understand is that we possess the capacity to successfully overcome our current challenges and put ourselves on a course that will lead to the greatest amount of well-being for life on this planet. We must actively explore ideas through critical engagement of the thinking faculty. We must educate ourselves by expanding our vocabulary, our awareness, our understanding of reality. By doing this we enhance the pool of potential ideas to play with.
So, there is no need to be pessimistic. Why not be optimistic? Why not engage the imagination and focus the attention on possibilities? The possibilities are infinite. If we can create a freaking smartphone, we can create technologies to curb our greenhouse emissions. We can come up with ways to eliminate poverty. We can come with ways to create the greatest amount of happiness for all. We can come up with better ideas about how to relate to each other, how to love each other. We can do this only if we think creatively outside of the fictitious boundaries of self-destructive thought, and have faith in our capacity to do so. It will take work for sure. What do we have to lose by doing so? There sure as hell is a lot to lose if we don’t! That’s for sure! And as this blog unfolds, I will share with you my ideas about how we can do it.
So, I leave with these questions:
How are we going to choose to engage this awesome power to conform reality to our ideas? How are we going to shape the experience of life on this earth? What ideas shall we hold/carry near to us?
Have fun thinking about this stuff, playing with this stuff!