August 22, 2011

What's the Big Idea?

Isabelle wants to know where all the big ideas went!?

I read something very disturbing in the New York Times' Sunday Review from two weeks ago. Their feature story, "The Elusive Big Idea," relayed the fact that we are no longer a society of big ideas. In fact, we shy away from them because they are no longer the point. THE POINT apparently is to get ALL the information and not even necessarily process it. The point of the Internet is that we have access to everything. The article continues to say that at no point in history has the human race been so informed. But the capacity to process and retain this information only goes so far. Indeed.

While I was so saddened to read this article, I kind of agree with Mr. Gabler, the author. Think about your Google reader, for example. Every website and blog that you enjoy can be on this device and all the information published on these sites are brought to you daily, after which you scroll through until you have: "your reading list has no unread items." Quel nightmare. When I get to that point (which is often early in the day on slow days), my heart kind of falls. I have just whizzed through to get all the info and now I've reached the end?! Catastrophe!

But seriously, I often catch myself scrolling through so fast. I mean, it's not a race. Everything is so fast today. We expect fast results. If our computer is a couple seconds slow, we start to get antsy. God forbid, I have to wait in line or at a pedestrian crosswalk (jaywalking is for winners!). I digress.

This is all to illustrate my mentality and to a greater extent our society of getting more fast. More fast. That's it. We don't take the time to think anymore!

It's so sad. I used to have big philosophic thoughts in the earlier parts of my youth, but lately I find myself thinking less like that (which is why that article resonated so with me).

I will say that the Times article labels this phenomenon about the paucity of big ideas but doesn't comment on the effects of it. I think this type of thinking - more fast - is going to drive our society off a cliff if we're not careful. We still need big idea people in our government, in our society. It's the big idea people that help parse out sticky situations like the debt ceiling crisis and the impending global food and water crises. We need these big ideas to help solve problems and most importantly, inspire us. Big ideas are poetry to human mind. They comfort and lift us up to make sense of our existence.


  1. I completely agree with this post! As a high school teacher, I have students who don't understand why they have to learn or analyze anything because it's all available on the internet. Why read the book when you can get the Sparknotes? Why come up with your own ideas when you can find other's on the internet? It drives me crazy, but then I think about the fact that I do the same thing (your example of scrolling through blogs was perfect...). I wonder how we "fix" this problem? I would love to hear what you have to say about that.

  2. I agree...I think our society is becoming more and more about quantity and not necessarily quality, whether that is in ideas, in our government, in fashion, etc. etc. Hopefully this will change...maybe with our generation, maybe with the next one!


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