Small Gum seedpods set against undergrowth

Where do we get our ideas from?

Of all the ideas we have in mind, how sure can we be of where they’ve come from? How firm of a gatekeeper have we been over the years about all we’ve let in to set up camp there? Then, how clear are we of the ways they’re coming together? Of which ideas may combine into questionable or erroneous conclusions we may act upon. If our minds are the places we’re making sense of life and charting our way within it, surely it matters?

Isn’t it true that, all throughout our lives, things are pouring into our minds? Incredible amounts of information constantly flowing through our senses into this vast repository of all our experiences, observations, ideas, assumptions, theories, interpretations, and beliefs. Lessons of childhood merging with moments of adult life; the words of others often pressed in for good measure.

These days, there’s such a staggering amount of input we’re supposed to process, integrate and work with on a daily basis: this flood of words, images, subconscious messages, opinions, and attempts to influence. Our job, perhaps, being to filter through it all, weed much of it out, and only place the most reliable items on the valuable shelves of our mental space. (Notes One)

Often it seems likely those shelves are going to be cluttered and imperfect – that, along the way, things would’ve snuck through and earnt a place they don’t deserve. How are we to judge? Particularly when so much of “this” is specifically, intelligently designed to sneak past whatever defences we might’ve erected. Isn’t there a concerted effort, from various quarters, to shape our thinking and guide our behaviour? (Notes Two)

Sometimes it seems like a strange battle is raging over the contents of our minds, with so many “interested parties” hoping to change our ideas and thereby our actions. Perhaps as much of that’s well-meaning as the rest is dubious. Like this marketplace for human thought, where almost everyone’s trying to win you over, tempt you in, or otherwise induce you to buy into whatever they’re offering.

Maybe that’s too negative an image, but it’s often not seeming so far from the reality we’re faced with. Whether we’re talking of influencers or tribes or whatever else, our attention and belief seem like valuable commodities. Is it because, as humans, that’s where our freedom lies? This sense in which the ideas we take in and build our lives upon “become” the paths we’re walking.

The question of where we’re getting those ideas from and how well we’re managing them seems important. Hopefully education does us the wonderful service of providing a robust, reliable, yet flexible foundation of both ideas and the capacity to form them. Hopefully the conversations of media and cultural life help round out, strengthen and enhance our understanding of life. If not, how are we to stand against this? (Notes Three)

Otherwise it just seems we’re being constantly assailed with questionable, half-finished ideas that might do little more than create confusion, doubt and frustration.

Notes and References:

Note 1: The self within society
Note 1: Being trusted to use our discernment…
Note 1: Information might be there, but can we find it?
Note 1: The thought surrounding us
Note 2: Do we really need incentives?
Note 2: Which voice can we trust?
Note 3: Passing on what’s important
Note 3: How ideas find their place in the world
Note 3: Culture as information
Note 3: What is the public conversation?

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