The importance of rethinking our own ideas in a changing, challenging world.
My typical posts are about environmental action, why it’s important and what we can do. That’s more or less my singular theme here. However, this post is different. We will soon return to battling climate change in a post about what you can do in your own yard. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what’s important. Especially as it concerns how we receive, accept and transmit ideas.
One of the most important things we can do in this life is rethink.
Rethink what we’ve been taught, what we value and hold dear. Reconsider where and how that idea first came to us. Was it delivered to us in words or actions? By whom? What were their possible motivations in teaching? What informed that idea for us, the student, and for them, the teacher? What value did it have then as it set within us? What value does it hold now?
Victor Hugo famously said, “nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” But I wonder if the second most powerful thing is an idea whose value is never considered. Educators often refer to children’s minds as tabula rasa, blank slates. I like to think of them as fresh soil. Rich, fertile, easy to work. The lessons we impart are the seeds we plant. As they grow it is incumbent upon the teachers, parents, and adults of the child’s world to till that soil, water it. Keep it fresh and ready for more and newer seeds. As the child becomes an adult that responsibility shifts to themselves.
I look at the world now, and my country especially, and I see a lot of hard-packed, dry and cracked earth. Too few of us are still doing the work to till that soil, turn it, keep it fertile, irrigated and ready for fresh ideas. By not reconsidering the things we’ve been taught, the things we think we know and the beliefs we hold dear, we become rigid. Unaccepting and unmoving.
The top layer of our soil turns to dust and blows away and what’s revealed beneath is a harsh landscape where not only can new ideas never grow but the old ideas — the things we cherish and that have informed whom we’ve become — get gnarled and twisted, ready to reach out and choke anything that may grow next to it so that it can continue to live, if not thrive, untended in the garden of our minds.
If we all wish to be better, to be understood, to be seen and to grow as a society then we must all tend to ourselves first, challenging our own notions and ideas.
Only then can we rise to the challenge society, fate and God has laid before us. To continue the belabored (though, appropriately, green) metaphor a bit longer: when you look at nature what do you really see? Life that is always growing, changing. Reaching out for nourishment, evolving shape and structure while remaining rooted in place. We must do the same.
Allowing for change and growing with it allows for even more growth which, contrary to what many say, doesn’t unmoor us — leaving us uprooted, floating far from our ideals. Quite the opposite, allowing for growth deepens our roots as we are fed by fresh ideas. Allowing a belief to change or evolve doesn’t erase who you are, it strengthens it, in just the same way a deep root structure strengthens a tree, allowing it to better weather the storm rather than be broken by it.
I think it’s imperative, especially now during a pandemic, for us all to spend some time in thought about our own ideas and the things we cherish. Is what we think really so sacred? If it challenges you, maybe ask yourself why? We must reconsider our own lessons so that we may better respond to our present and then teach our future. Rethinking seems to be the action 2020 is thrusting upon us.
Oh, and please, while you’re doing this work, wear a mask.