My favorite car mechanics and radio buddies, Click & Clack on Car Talk, claimed that Ted Williams once said, "If you don't think so good then don't think so much." Of course, Ted Williams was a baseball hero but I think he looks a whole lot smokin' hotter as an aviator. Thus, the photograph. But I digress.
The point being made by Tom and Ray ("The Tappett Brothers") was that some ideas are just not worth carrying out; but the good news is that someone was thinking about the idea.
This thought was still rattling around in my head when I was talking on Saturday with my neighbor, Mike. Mike is in the fish business. I was using Alaskan Fish Fertilizer as the final step in planting some bare root day lilies that had just arrived from Oakes. Mike said he wished he had thought of fish fertilizer - what a lucky break for some other guy.
Of course, that started us and then the neighbors across the street chiming in about those crazy, hair-brained schemes that we looked at and thought, "I could have done that!' but someone else beat us to it. Mood rings, Pet Rocks, Chia Pets, liverwurst, and so on.
So, what is it? Knowledge, smarts, time to think, an entrepreneurial spirit, or some combination?
Neal Gabler, author of "Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination" writing for the NYTimes, "The Elusive Big Idea," suggests that we have far too much information and too little time or inclination to consider bold ideas. Excerpt.
"Ideas just aren’t what they used to be. Once upon a time, they could ignite fires of debate, stimulate other thoughts, incite revolutions and fundamentally change the ways we look at and think about the world.
They could penetrate the general culture and make celebrities out of thinkers — notably Albert Einstein, but also Reinhold Niebuhr, Daniel Bell, Betty Friedan, Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould, to name a few. The ideas themselves could even be made famous: for instance, for “the end of ideology,” “the medium is the message,” “the feminine mystique,” “the Big Bang theory,” “the end of history.” A big idea could capture the cover of Time — “Is God Dead?” — and intellectuals like Norman Mailer, William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal would even occasionally be invited to the couches of late-night talk shows. How long ago that was.
If our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it’s not because we are dumber than our forebears but because we just don’t care as much about ideas as they did. In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them, the Internet notwithstanding. Bold ideas are almost passé."
What has all that social media wrought? Well, you may know where someone went to lunch, or who just walked into their office, or how long a commute they endured that day because of traffic, or what dental floss they are using to get the popcorn out of their teeth as they wait for the feature film to start at the Bijou. But any ideas? Nope.
We are absorbed with furiously trading data bytes like boys dealing baseball cards that used to come in nickel packs with pink bubblegum. We have little clue how to even consider what it would take to make something of al that traded stuff. Excerpt.
"But if information was once grist for ideas, over the last decade it has become competition for them. We are like the farmer who has too much wheat to make flour. We are inundated with so much information that we wouldn’t have time to process it even if we wanted to, and most of us don’t want to.
The collection itself is exhausting: what each of our friends is doing at that particular moment and then the next moment and the next one; who Jennifer Aniston is dating right now; which video is going viral on YouTube this hour; what Princess Letizia or Kate Middleton is wearing that day. In effect, we are living within the nimbus of an informational Gresham’s law in which trivial information pushes out significant information, but it is also an ideational Gresham’s law in which information, trivial or not, pushes out ideas.
We prefer knowing to thinking because knowing has more immediate value. It keeps us in the loop, keeps us connected to our friends and our cohort. Ideas are too airy, too impractical, too much work for too little reward. Few talk ideas. Everyone talks information, usually personal information. Where are you going? What are you doing? Whom are you seeing? These are today’s big questions."
The other day I read an email from a friend asking me to consider the following:
- What is the one really great thing you can think of to do or be that would give something back to the world in the next three years?
- What is the one really great thing you can think of to make happen that would pull people together instead of apart?
- What if... [fill in the blank]? What do you think could happen after that?
Okay, so maybe get a laugh out of this (as I imagine many did listening to the Car Talk broadcast), "If you don't think so good then don't think so much."
Then pause for a moment to think what the future could be.... What if there is some really waycoolawesome ready-to-be discovered secret that will help us socially, politically, spiritually, intellectually, religiously, or economically, AND