This is my 800th article in this blog (and there over 600 drafts yet to be finished at the time I’m writing this). Its also my 7th anniversary of writing blogs on this site. Since I have written so much it has made me think a lot about writing, what its all about, and why I do it.
QUESTIONING THE VALUE AND MEANING OF IDEAS
Oddly enough, one of the greatest impacts blog writing has has had on me is that it has shown me how little value ideas really have. This is the opposite of what you’d expect. You’d think that writing ideas would make ideas important and give them value. But, to me, its done the opposite. Because of this, it has made me question the value of ideas and the purpose of writing them.
Social aspects and the “ideas matter” belief
On a social level, I have always questioned if ideas are really that beneficial or if they really mean anything (by “social” I mean that ideas influence other people). To be frank, I have little proof that ideas have that type of power. In fact, in my whole adult life I have never really seen much proof that ideas have much influence on a social level. Very seldom does an idea, by itself, influence people or make things happen or determine things from my experience. What seems to “makes things happen” are not the ideas themselves but other things, such as:
- Various conditions that exist at the time. This refers to realities that dictate the times.
- Various powers that exist at the time. This refers to the different forces that influences and often dictate things.
It is things, such as these, that as if causes an “appeal” to certain ideas as well as give certain ideas a power and meaning. In this way, ideas tend to “follow along” these conditions and powers and follow their lead. As a result, many ideas are basically a reaction to, and correspond to, the current conditions and powers. Ideas, then, are not the great power they often seem to be, nor are they as “new” or “novel” as it may seem, as they are only reacting to existing conditions and powers. This means that most ideas area actually secondary in nature and gain power, not in and from themselves, but from existing conditions and powers. In other words, ideas don’t seem to be the great power, instigator, creator, or originator of things as much as it may seem but, in actuality, are a reaction to existing conditions and powers which it relies on to make the idea important. This makes me tend to feel that ideas, by themselves, mean very little . . . and this is what my observation shows.
Ideas need some form of power behind them to have any real value. What this means is that ideas are only a means for some forms of power, a medium for this power to function. It does this a number of different ways:
- They are a statement of the power. Here, the idea is as if noting the power and no more. In other words, the power does not rely on the idea. Good examples of this include many beliefs, opinions, and points of views.
- They accentuate the power. Here, the idea makes the power even stronger. In other words, the power is supported by the idea. A good example of this is the ideas required to know how to change a tire or make spaghetti.
- They are the means of the power. This means that the power needs ideas to give it the means to demonstrate its power. In other words, the power relies on the idea. A good example of this is the ideas used in making a decision (this form seems to only be influential in certain situations and quickly lose power once the situation changes).
Most ideas, it seems to me, are of the former “statement” form, which is also more constant in life. The later “means” form seems more rare and also tends to be transitory. The middle “accentuate” form is somewhere in the middle of the other two. In this way, it makes something like a spectrum, from common and constant to uncommon and transitory.
I should also point out that ideas are only a means of power for some forms of power, not all forms. Power is manifested through many means and ways . . . ideas are only one form. Because of this, ideas have a limited influence and importance, in actuality, which is quite surprising.
Much of the belief that “ideas matter” seems to be largely a result of the enlightment (primarily the 1700-1900’s in Europe and the U.S.) which placed a lot of emphasis on “ideas”, theories, and such, particularly if they are “new” or “novel”. This point of view gets its justification from the achievements of the scientific movement, industrialization, and invention to make it valid for, probably without these, the “ideas matter” belief probably wouldn’t of gained much hold.
Much of the importance of “new ideas” seems to have origin in the reaction to the dilemma of Christianity, whose belief and power was waning during the enlightment. The “new ideas” as if gave an alternate to the failing Christian dogma and belief system and, accordingly, gave something new to believe in. Its no doubt this association with Christianity that has given the “ideas matter” an almost religious attitude with it. Because of this, many people staunchly believe that “ideas matter”, and hold to it strongly, with almost religious conviction.
During the enlightment a “new idea” did mean something (as they were the source of science, industrialization, invention, etc.) but they don’t mean much anymore. We are no longer in the enlightment . . . science, innovation, and invention have done their thing and had their day. As a result of this, the era of the “ideas matter” seems to be waning. This, to me, seems quite evident. Its become particularly apparent after writing in this blog, which made me look at things from a different angle. This includes things such as:
- I took conversations with people, as well as the expression of ideas, more seriously (as many articles in this blog have origin from conversations).
- I looked around and watched how various ideas affected people.
- I looked out how ideas affected me (see below).
The end observation of all this was the discovery that ideas did not matter all that much.
My observation and experience is that, at least here in the U.S., no one really cares that much. I see very little evidence of that. They may say they care and even be “interested” but its short lived. In the U.S., interest in things tend to be measured in days, hours, and sometimes minutes . . . then its forgotten. In other words, Americans seem to “think” ideas are neat only temporarily and then forget it in a flash. As a result, the belief that “ideas matter” is really an illusion.
I can see that a lot of this not caring has a lot to do with the problem of power in American society. To put it simply, much of American ideals tend to undermine power. In so doing, they undermine any form of power, including the power of ideas. This is why, it seems to me, that there is a tendency to not care about anything here. The ideas that do matter, in this country, tend to require certain types of power to be often be considered. Often, this power is more like a “base power”, such as money or social fad, which usually has no real depth. Without this “base power” there is no hope of any idea coming to anything much, I’ve found. What this means is that the “inherent truth” of an idea generally is not the power behind ideas. As I said above, the idea follows some existing condition or power and it is this that gives the idea power. In the U.S. the conditions and power tends to favor any idea that is involved with things like money and social fad or trend. As a result, any idea involving these tend to have power and “truth” and gains a foothold. Any that don’t have these have no power or “truth”. After watching this over the years its quite clear that ideas are the handmaiden of existing conditions and powers.
All this is complicated by the fact is that there are so many points of view and opinions out there that any new idea or opinion is doing nothing but add to the great static of statements, opinions, points of view, etc. My writing this blog only adds to that endless static. I’ve thought a lot on that: should I continue? I don’t know.
Not only that, it seems to me that ideas and opinions have become “overdone” and “overplayed”, as a whole. The last several centuries has seen an explosion of ideas. Its like ideas are wore out, used up, and have become like a worn out record. And everyone has an idea . . . they are a dime a dozen. In a way, ideas have become so “commonplace” that they are boring.
Its because of things like these that, many times, I have thought about ending any new entries. What, really, is the point? But there is a power in these ideas I write but it is not social in origin but because of the personal power they give to me and that, I guess, is the secret that keeps me going . . .
Writing for myself, seeking whats behind the idea
After writing 800 articles I can see that I am really writing for myself, for my own inquiry, for my own purpose,and for personal reasons. In this way, it is really a personal record of thought, something like a journal.
But it makes me wonder: is that even worth a blog? I can’t say.
But I often like to write and its not uncommon for me to get into “writing moods”. When I sit and write it helps me to think and organize my thoughts. It also sets my thoughts down in a way that I can see it and often formulate it into a more defined form. Its probably because of this single reason, more than anything else, that I continue to write. I do it for myself, to organize my thoughts, and to turn it into a form. After all, I am the only one who really cares about it. Not only that, I’m probably the only person who really understands it.
After I finish writing an article I find that I can’t help but press the “Publish” button. God only knows if it any of it has any value. I simply don’t know. Perhaps that’s the appeal . . . not knowing? But I also think that publishing it somehow “completes” the thought and, in that way, gives it a “substantiation” or value or meaning.
Being that these articles are written for myself its not all that surprising that I have a unique personal style in writing. I often thought that many people may find it silly, awkward, stupid, or whatnot. That wouldn’t surprise me. But it works for me and helps me think . . . that’s what matters first and foremost. I also feel this awkward style deters many people from reading it, people I don’t want reading it, such as people who are wanting “easy answers”, wanting to find something to complain about, people that are bored, or that blindly surf the web. To be frank, the people I would want reading this blog are people who look at things more seriously.
As I said above, one of the great dilemma’s that has come about from writing this blog is the meaning of ideas to me. Its become clear, to me, that ideas are not the “end” nor are they what I seek. In other words, I do not seek the idea but what is behind the idea or, rather, what motivates the idea, the “passion”, as I call it. Its for this reason that I often call the ideas in this blog the “footprints of my thought”, they only reveal where my thoughts “have been”, so to speak. They do not state where I’m going or how I’m getting there nor the destination. In this way, the ideas in this blog are more like a record of a journey, so to speak, much like travel photography.
Because I seek what is beyond the ideas I’ve found that the ideas in this blog are increasingly taking on a “back burner” quality. That is to say, they are not at the for-front of my life and intentions. As I look more and more for what is beyond the ideas I find that I find less and less a desire to write . . . its like its becoming a hindrance. I’ve noticed that the desire to write is starting to wane. Perhaps my “writing phase” is ending?
Copyright by Mike Michelsen