“If at first an idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” — Albert Einstein
Ideas often get laughed at or feared before being accepted as the norm. The great discoverers in history were regularly met with ridicule when first trying to break their ideas. Fear-filled campaigns to discredit these ideas often followed. Thanks to the wealth of knowledge these discoverers imparted on the world, we now have more than enough knowledge (and applications of that knowledge) to be able to live a good life. Since so much of what is necessary to live a good life has already been discovered, the questions we should be asking are not “how to get more” or “how do we improve,” but “How do we use this knowledge to live in a peaceful and sustainable way? How do we equitably distribute the fruits of our discoveries to the less developed world? How do we bring the knowledge of happiness to the world?”
To solve the world’s big problems such as climate change, war and poverty, we need to achieve a higher level of change than what we already have. Working within the paradigms we currently live in has only brought minimal change and likely will continue to produce the same results. We can only run around the box for so long before we’ve seen everything. To jump out of the box and live in a world that we really want to live in, we need breakthrough energy.
April Fool’s day is a great time to break free. On a day when people are playing jokes on each other, we might as well laugh at ourselves rather than get embarrassed. One April Fool’s day myself and a few friends attended a dance that had a fool’s theme. The weekly “Gypsy Nation” events normally elicit a state of creative expression and freedom. On this particular evening the current of creativity ran even deeper than usual. Appropriately dressed in satin clown pants and a pink bra, I was rolling around on the floor with the others tickling and pillow fighting each other. It was then that I realized just how open it is to act foolishly. Being in a position of openness, free to do anything with nothing to lose, invites creativity and infinite possibility. Or as Janis Joplin sings, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” That energy of April Fool’s can be brought into every day of the year. It’s the element of safety that is key. Being in an open, accepting environment frees us to take chances without feeling the risk.
We can go on and on living in the ego-sphere, clinging to the identities, images and beliefs that we construct into a “me,” then wasting so much energy continually defending that “me” or we can let go and just be. From this place of openness we can look at things with a beginner’s mind. As Zen master Shunryu Suzuki explains it: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” No matter how “skilled” or “intelligent” we think we are, it is only when we approach ideas free from preconceptions and in a state of openness that we can truly learn and grow. To open up the largest field of possibility, we have to entertain all possible ideas rather than be quick to judge. True discernment is akin to openness—and that often means taking risks.
Does the word “foolish” have meaning or is it just another word created by close mindedness? The term is used to refer to behaviour that lacks good sense, judgment or is unacceptable in some way. With consumer greed, imperialistic ambition and environmental destruction being the dominant norms in our world, what exactly is foolishness? Words have no meaning other than what we attribute to them.
Risk taking leads to safety. The truth to this paradox lies in our perception. Safety comes not from holding back ideas (or acting in ways) that seem absurd for fear of repercussion, but from opening ourselves to that very threat of repercussion. It is about cutting through the illusion of fear by dispelling the ego’s overly protective grip over us. Not much in the world was ever accomplished without taking chances. The same holds true on a personal level. Embracing the fool invites us to risk asking ourselves the difficult questions. Who am I? Is something holding me back from being my true Self? Am I fully contributing to the world? If not, how can I change?
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“There’s not an idea in our heads that has not been worn shiny by someone else’s brain.” — Woodrow Wilson
The answers to all the world’s dilemmas are out there. They may be deeply embedded in people’s unconscious, long forgotten or repressed out of ridicule. We just have to go out and find them. Finding them requires being open to their message no matter how ridiculous they may seem because if a mind fears that its idea will not be respected, it may never express it. Creating a forum of safety for those ideas to surface is vital to their emergence.
The spirit of collaboration facilitates creativity. While individual thought processing is one dimensional, working with another person or in a group connects minds two dimensionally—fostering creativity through collaboration. When connected in union with the masses, three dimensional thinking begins. With the whole world involved via the Internet, latent ideas get plucked out of the larger consciousness. In this sphere, the possibility for new ideas are endless.
Instead of outsourcing someone to do something, why not open source ideas. Put them on Internet message boards and watch them grow. Start a discussion that stirs ideas out of the dark recesses of the collective memory. Follow the free culture movement’s ideal of openness and information sharing. In so doing, creativity expands, access to information increases and in the end, everyone can benefit.