Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Idiot Within

The Idiot Within

The world we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them - Albert Einstein

Thinking, thinking, thinking. Can we ever be free from thinking?

If your thinking faculty is not fully developed, society calls you an idiot. So you spend all your growing up years trying to acquire a good education, that you can be accepted into society as an intelligent person.

You take pride in being a thinking person, living in an open democratic society, participating in the affairs of the world. You are quick to condemn people whom you think are incompetent, stupid and ignorant. You begin to develop an intolerance for fools.

You believe that the ability to argue, criticize and point out other people's mistakes is the hallmark of a brilliant mind. So you become more vocal in your condemnation of others; you fraternize with people who share your opinion (brilliant minds think alike), and think of yourselves as being the voice of the people.

You fight for your ideas to be accepted. You fight with such conviction because you believe deeply in the justice of your cause. And you find yourself clashing with people who think differently. You are surprised that these people too believe in their cause with as much conviction as you do. But still you are absolutely convinced that yours is the correct one. Why can't they get it?

You see this pattern being repeated again and again throughout the course of human history. The clash between opposite sides would sometimes yield a victor but such victories are never conclusive. The seeds of discontentment are temporarily buried, only for them to sprout again once there's a nurturing soil. And so the human race progresses--the victors suppressing the vanquished and the vanquished rising again to oppose the victors in some other form.

It is a very costly way to progress. We are so used to thinking in this kind of dualistic mode--supporters and opposers, good and evil, black and white. It is as if this is the only way of thinking that we humans are capable of.

Why can't we all start from a position of uncertainty for a change? Why can't we all admit that we don't know and we are not certain. Why can't we all sit on one side and say, we are not sure what's right But let's try this. If it doesn't work, let's try that. If that doesn't work, let's relook at the way we are thinking. Let's take a step back and from our usual way of thinking. Let's unthink ourselves. Let's explore together, instead of trying to out-argue each other.

No, it's not possible. We need strong beliefs and conviction to progress. We need leadership. We need to rouse the masses and lead them forward towards a common cause, a common destiny. Uncertainty equals weakness. No one will follow us if we are uncertain. Let's fight for our beliefs!

What makes one belief better than the other? Is reason alone sufficent to weigh the merits of each belief? First of all: do we all even reason the same way? What is reason? How do we reason out reason itself?

Which brings me back to the point in Einstein's quote: We cannot solve our current problems using existing modes of thinking. But how do we develop this higher level of thinking? Through more education? More information?

I suspect not. We need to stop thinking for a while.


We have forgotten what's it's like to be an idiot. We have got caught up in all this noise which we call thinking. We have forgotten where original ideas come from. Our stream of thinking is so fast and ceaseless that we fail to notice that there are actually gaps between our thoughts.

Dive into these gaps, and find out for yourself. Talk to that forgotten idiot within. Maybe then you'll get some truly fresh ideas.