Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Types and the Power of Folly

Originally posted on April 28, 2012

How much insight can we expect people to develop in our time? I am wary about this, because it seems to me that very few people value or expect to experience true creative breakthroughs. That expectation is a rare “meme”—a term for an idea that catches on. In contrast, a meme that has widely caught on is that of at times unrealistically expecting that progress will be made in science and medicine. People who are dying have hope that somewhere someone has a breakthrough treatment. It might be unrealistic, but that image is there. The idea that they themselves might yet experience the getting past the frontiers of their own attitudes, expectations, perceptions, beliefs? Nah. That meme I think is still rare.

Some of the reasons I have become disillusioned about people really expecting this kind of thing—at least by, say, 43.3% of the population within 2 generations—include the following: It’s a combination of factors:
– middle intelligence as capacity,
– the prevalence of distractions by media, amusements;
– the pseudo-egalitarianism that implies that middle intelligence is good enough,
– the susceptibility to rhetoric and propaganda,
– the mental laziness that prefers not only not to think, but also doesn’t want to be reminded that it is not thinking,
– the anger turned against those messengers who point this out, the devaluing of the mind, academia, intellectual endeavor,
– the watering down of culture by mass media, implying that middlebrow and lowbrow culture is fine and that more complex thoughts are effete self-indulgence rather than true wisdom,
– the proliferation of colleges so that many academics are indeed people of medium-smart ability who tend not to question underlying assumptions,
– the distrust towards the idea of self-questioning, confusing it with the bizarre theories of psychoanalysis…

   … all these and more has drawn me to a wariness about the degrees to which my seemingly intelligent neighbors tend to back away from critically wrestling with the ideas of their era. I am hopeful, though, that in three generations the percentage of those with a lively ethos of discovery and creativity for themselves and their creativity may have reached that aforementioned 44% or some critical mass in our culture. It might take longer, or it might surprise me by happening sooner. But the list above does speak to why I am a bit humble about it. In the background I remember someone having said, “We better watch out or we’ll end up where we’re heading.” So it’s an uneasy kind of faith.

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