What you read and retain has a potential bearing on what you read and retain after that. The ongoing, holistic process is what gives each of us a unique viewpoint. No wonder we have such varied opinions. With a general election campaign in full swing, you can’t avoid opinions. Personal views, official lines, big picture analysis, minor point evaluation…
Opinions are important because they help shape our ideas. Reading is also important because we learn about other opinions and ideas in the process. We can’t form our own conclusions if we don’t read about other ideas out there.
Ideas are important too. Without ideas, progress isn’t made, change doesn’t happen, much of human development stops.
But ideas can’t go anywhere unless they are realised and actioned. And you can’t action anything without the initial idea:
“Ideas make the world, for they are the guide to future practice. Even the flimsiest ideas rooted in prejudice and ignorance make history and form public culture…Ideas, when mobilised, become the templates of thought and practice.” [Ash Amin & Michael O’Neill in Thinking About Almost Everything]
When you put your mind to work — whatever the focus — don’t be afraid of what you think. You may stumble upon something brilliant. Your education is an opportunity to discover and let your mind wander. Will your ideas fit in with what has already been, with what is to come, or with nothing at all?
You’ll probably discard the majority of your ideas. That’s no bad thing. The more ideas you have, the more you should expect to pass by. Luckily, you should hold on to more ideas too.
Don’t worry about what you’re doing. You can’t please everyone. Many successful ideas look unworkable or unpopular until they go beyond the idea. As they get a life of their own, what once sounded ridiculous can end up changing the world.
Whether you’re studying in the humanities, the sciences or something entirely different, ideas are crucial. As Ash Amin and Michael O’Neill explain, university is the home of ideas:
“The very ethos of what defines a university is currently a matter of debate. It is critical that scholarship, education, and thinking about better ways of living and doing things are all central to what a university should be. We should not confuse ‘teaching’ – repackaging and dissemination of existing ideas – with education and scholarship, which generate new ideas and open the minds of leaders of the future. It is no accident that one of the first targets of any extremist regime is the university. The ideas it generates are central to the future of our civilisation and society.” [From Thinking About Almost Everything]
More now than ever, life carries us along so quickly. With instant updates and so much on offer, many of us have a fear of missing out.
Every now and then you should stop and think in your own time. You don’t need to reel off amazing ideas that will change the world, but isn’t it good just to step off the world for a few minutes?
When you get back on, enjoy seeing things differently.