We keep hearing the phrase “Think outside the box!”, but everything around us screams something totally different. So yesterday trolling on the net I came across an article from Gilbert Ross; 7 Things You Must Know to be a Free Thinker. It’s a really good article and thought I should share a few thoughts that got me thinking.
1. Creativity is your natural birth right
We stereotype creative thinkers as artists or bohemians who are different than the rest of us. Well that is plainly false. We are all endowed with the gift of creativity. Education, or rather schooling, has successfully stripped us from that natural disposition. It has molded us into mechanistic and reductionistic images of humanity – into cogs in the wheel. The schooling system is designed to make people think within the same parameters – those laid down by the dominating view of society and culture.
2. Group thinking and herd morality are you enemies
Group thinking is the silent enemy of free-thinking. We unconsciously follow the rhythm of the crowd. When the crowd shouts, we feel compelled to shout. When the crowd panics, we panic. Emotions, sentiments and ideas can be very contagious. So is thinking. It’s quite easy to follow the line of thought of your peers and those in authority. Yet as we become sedated with group thinking, we lose the power to claim the authenticity of our own mind.
3. Perspective is key
The free-thinker knows the power of perspective. Perspective changes everything. What we feel or think about something can dissolve or flip the other way round just by changing perspective. Even the strongest of views and beliefs can change when a newer perspective is reached. What seems like loss can be seen as opportunity just by changing your perspective. Adversity can turn into a learning opportunity; problems can turn into a solution; what is failure from one perspective can be seen as a launching pad for success from another.
4. Knowledge is provision
Conservative, authoritarian, religious or institutional structures resist change forcefully because their worldview rests on the premise that their knowledge or beliefs are absolute. Even Science can and did fall in this trap at times. Yet the free-thinker is sure of only one thing – that knowledge is provisional. What we think we know today will be debunked or dramatically changed by what we know tomorrow. Free-thinkers run away from individuals or organisations who claim to know something, or worse, know everything. They are fully aware that we haven’t got the faintest clue yet, despite big leaps forward, about the world, life and the Universe at large.
5. Defying institutional pressure
My favourite quote has to be from Albeit Einstein “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing its stupid.”
Society had two major forces at play. One is a top-down control transmitted hierarchically through the institutions. The other is a force of change, novelty and innovation which is built bottom-up from individuals and slowly accepted and adopted by larger social structures. One crazy innovative idea from a free-thinker on the fringes of society can be taken up by some influences and spread virally through the mass media until it becomes a norm. OK this is a simplistic overview but it’s enough to show the basic mechanics of social change.
Free thinkers are those individuals on the fringes of society cooking up shockingly new ideas. They refuse to succumb to institutional pressures of uniformity and control. The institutional top-down forces are there mainly to preserve their status-quo, the stability of the social system and its identity hence they resist novelty and change. The power of the free-thinker on the other hand, lies in constantly defying these institutional pressures to abide to the rules and accepted norms of society.