A sense of barrenness in the land of ideas has left us thirsty and jaded. It’s like we have heard it all: Work Hard. Be Kind to people. Say No. Persevere. It’s okay to Fail. It’s all about Execution. Successful people wake up early and shoot pigeons. Yada Yada.
From productivity to psychology to persuasion, ideas have been beaten to death.
Ideas remain dead until an immense shortage necessitates a revival of old ideas. Ideas were the currency of the 20th century. Now, they are collector’s item.
Back in 2015, I was obsessed with productivity. I went so far as measuring every one of my days. The initial idea for this blog was to write all about productivity. After all, who would’t want to read about saving more time. I accumulated enough information to write a whole book. As I started – every idea, I realized, belabored the same things that had been said by a thousand different people a thousand different times in a thousand different ways. Ironic shit for a subject whose central theme is focus well on a few things.
I abandoned the project not because my ideas weren’t particularly new or original. But because they, although popular, had become stale and senile.
An effective way to spread ideas in the 21st century is eloquent thrash-talk. And I am accomplice there.
Basically, take really popular ideas (management, relationships, religion, self-help, politics, culture) and beat the crap out of them. While some of these ideas help question the status-quo and our own bullshit certainty, most literature here makes a virtue of emphasizing what’s wrong and stupid with the world and how we are living in dark times and how much we all suck. They provide light by setting garbage on fire. The problem with this approach is that it needs garbage to thrive. And we begin to see everything as worldly wastoid deserving scorn.
The Internet is a classroom of hungry, angry, and attention-seeking children. There’s a lot of information and millions of sites like this one. We can’t combat the noise by escaping it or screaming over one another. What we need in times like this is an ability to think and reflect deeply.
That can’t happen through a piggy-backed and pissed-off ideology. We like and encourage ideas like these because they give us an illusion of change. Repetition and raillery seem to signify how now that we know everything sucks, things will magically change.
Good ideas involve great struggle. And they rarely go viral. Most often, they go unnoticed. They seep into the civilization slowly. Because they take time to assimilate. Over the last two millennia, philosophy and science formed the conduit for ideas. Ideas came from people whose very job involves thinking deeply.
This doesn’t mean we must all wear robes and sit in a bathtub. And it sure doesn’t mean, you stop coming up with ideas. What it means is really, truly great ideas are rarely apple falling on the head type epiphanies. They involve contemplation and cumulative effort of the highest degree. Our environment has grown at a pace so fast that the problem is not a lack of ideas or even bad ideas.
The problem is the short-life of an idea because we think is isn’t viral enough.
Viral ideas are like food-poisoning – giving everyone that indulged in it instant gastronomic joy only to leave them all sick, nauseated and pissed-off at no one in particular. Good ideas, like good art, spread gradually. Your ideas are just fine. Your ideology is not.