“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Eleanor Roosevelt
One of the most interesting responses from those who read my latest book, “When the Last Ocean Dies,” came from a man in northern California. You write books for thinkers. Of all the nice things people wrote to me over the last couple years, this one intrigued me for several reasons. First, because he understood the pleasure that came from the exchange of ideas.
And second because I wrote about the alienation of thinkers in my novel. The character Aquia lives in the world of musicians where language is based on sounds instead of words. And yet, he also lives in the world of the mind, a place that grows increasingly more lonely. The more complex his ideas become, the more alienated he begins to feel.
“Being different is a challenge because the more ideas you have, the more dreams you dare to voice, the deeper you dig inside yourself for truth, the more you distance yourself from most people. Your world grows smaller with each realization, with each insight. Every bit of awareness sets you apart from yet another circle. After a while, you start to ask yourself why does it matter that we have a sky if only you can see it?”
quote from When The Last Ocean Dies
Sometime in the last few decades we became a culture more enamored with things than ideas, and the world of the mind, the world of those who thought and shared those thoughts with others grew even smaller. It was a character defect to think too much. It was a waste of valuable time to talk about intangible things like ideas.
But a culture unable to address the complex issues of its inner civilization begins to stagnate from the inside. It begins to rot away and sink into the easy comfort of light conversation and meaningless gossip. Or it becomes a raging inferno of personal opinion ready to spew and overwhelm. In between there’s the safe dialogue bridge to cross into the acceptable ways to exchange ideas realm.
For example, you can talk about sports, you can discuss the history of sports, but if you talk about wanting to examine the need for sports, the herd begins to back away. And if you want to speculate on the metaphysical meaning of the word sports, you will be left talking to the wall.
That is how a culture of things over ideas grows. That is how the media meant to inform and challenge became a shrieking hysteric that spewed rumors, conspiracy theories, and gossip. It’s what sells, they told us. It’s hard to disagree when the consumer lapped up their crap and headed to the mall to accumulate even more things they didn’t need.
The discussion of ideas leads to a greater sense of awareness, a deeper understanding of self and others. This exchange of thoughts, of different views on diverse subjects creates not only an awareness but a tolerance, an acceptance, an understanding of others. And that is the problem.
The thinkers are impossible to control. They don’t fit inside society’s neat little compartments. Many times they make their own. They are also impossible to herd into one ideology, are unable to follow leaders, see no reason to believe in limited spirituality, and are unwilling to accept there’s only one way of looking at the many different truths.
Maybe that is the reason billions of dollars were spent over decades for the sole purpose of demonizing intellect. The thinkers were beginning to see through the bullshit. That was the threat that had to be stopped. But anytime a society, a culture, a group presses too far on one end, the other end begins to rise higher.
The anti-intellectualism movement will have its backlash moment because everything evens out eventually. Those who read my books seem convinced the mind will once again gain value, that things will lose their importance and the world of thinkers will change us and the world for the better. And because they understand my ideas, I am inclined to believe them.
Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic