The Nature of Ideas

Published on: 2023-06-13 01:04:07

Imagine that you have an idea. Any idea. Let it float around in your minds. It is an abstract thing, full of hope and possibility, capable of being whatever you wish for it to be. You are limitless in your exploration of that idea. Bounce it back and forth in your skull, transform it, transfigure it and play around with it. It is yours. You are its master. It; your slave.

Yet, this is only an idealized abstract of the concept in our mind. It is a multifaceted crystal with many shapes and dimensions to it. This abstract can take any form, limited only by our imagination. Let us take an example. How many of you here have read Harry Potter? I'm talking about the books, of course, not the movies. More specifically, how many of you have read the books before watching the movies? While reading these books, everyone would have had an idealized version of how Harry looks like in their mind. Everyone has their own Hogwarts, their own version of the Nimbus 2000, of the Elder Wand, all the way down to every minute detail. Everyone is reading the same book, but in their heads, each one has their own story.

Such is the nature of anything we think up. When it is within us, it is a unique, ideal thing. It takes on an indescribable shape and form. But it is only when we put this idea down, try to bring it out, do face a problem. To misquote Shakespear, there lies the rub.

To explain this issue, let me delve into another example. Let us do a little thought experiment. I want everyone to close their eyes and think. Imagine a tree. Now, everyone has an ideal tree which springs to their mind when they think of it. Let me now try to describe what my tree, my ideal, looks like to you. My tree is huge, it stretches it's limbs out wide and when I imagine myself sitting under it, its branches are wide enough it block out the sky. Its leaves are green, very green. They are not the green of young buds, nor are they the deep green of old mango leaves. No, they are a very very, well, green.

And so, we have immediately run into a problem. I cannot describe my ideal tree without describing my ideal green. But I can't describe my ideal green, because it is a product of my mind, not that of the real world. I can try to assign a wavelength of light with which this green corresponds to, but then, this green becomes a number. Something which is an ideal in my mind now becomes an ordinary number with nothing special that makes it ideal for me. So, too is it with the height of the tree and the width of its trunk and etc ad nauseam. If I describe them with any sort of precision or rigour, they lose their ethereal qualities and become the mundane.

The Ancient Greek philosopher, Plato tackled this problem in his book Timaeus. In it, he says that there is a world separate from our called the World Of Forms. In this world of forms, everything is an ideal of a concept. We have the ideal tree, upon which all trees in our real, material world are based upon. The world of forms has the ideal rock, the ideal river, the ideal sea, the ideal everything. So, when we think about something, our mind visits the world of forms and looks upon the very real ideal and when we come back to the real world, this ideal takes some from as we describe it. A very elegant solution to this problem, but metaphysics does not really solve this issue so much as it simply shunts it off to a side by saying that there is a world of forms which describes all ideals.

So, let's get real. I'm sure, most of you have had this moment where they've had this great idea for a speech or a novel or a script or anything similar. You get pumped up. This is it. Your big break. Hollywood, here I come! So, you sit down at your trusty old laptop and start typing away. But you pause. How do you begin? You have the idea, but it doesn't really have a beginning. It's more of a thought really. But all stories and speeches and novels have a beginning, don't they? So, you force a beginning upon it, chipping a part of the idea away to make space for your beginning. The abstract is slowly being transformed into reality. As the process continues and you sit with the end product in your hands, its a different beast altogether.

The perfect ideal of your thoughts has been replaced by a Frankenstein's monster. Its ideal nature had to give way to the practicalities of the real world. The idea has become real and in this process, it has lost itself. When I set about writing this thing, I had an idea in my mind. I wanted to say something which I had been thinking about. But in the process of scripting it and putting it out here, I have lost the truth of my thoughts somewhere along the way.

When I started writing this, just before I typed the first word, this idea had produced a great revolution in my mind. An enlightenment, as it were. But as I wrote it down and described it, the ideal had to become real and thus lose itself. My revelation became common knowledge by the time I was done and as I reached the conclusion, I lost whatever love I had for it in the beginning. The writing turned out to be a chore, the idea into a … statistic in the list of all thoughts which went through my head.

Even this conclusion has been forced upon my idea, pushed into its essence. My idea does not have a conclusion. It just exists. It is a thought. But to conform to the reality of this physical world we live in, I was forced to give it a conclusion, turning my idea into that which it never was, is or meant to be. So, when you have an idea of great worth, an ideal thought, multi-faceted and multi-dimensional; don't write it down.