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What We Need Here Are Some New Ideas

Imagine for a moment that you are a Martian who has never needed to sleep, and you are sent to Earth to study human beings. What might you think about the human ritual of sleeping? This subject was among the conversations Richard Feynman, renowned physicist, had with his family at their dinner table while he was growing up. In college, that old pondering about observing sleep in a new way led him to question what actually goes into the process of becoming unconscious, and he developed a successful project from that original idea. From there, his ideas have persisted – encouraging us all to keep pushing on boundaries wherever we can. In 1998, 10 years after his death, Apple honored his ideas in an ad campaign that encourage to us Think different

His passion for figuring out (1) how everything works and (2) what makes everything work flourished throughout his life. He credits his father with encouraging him to be so curious that he ultimately made an awe-inspiring career out of questioning the creation and existence of his own environment. And he did it by combining his enthusiasm for new ideas with the Laws of Physics. Driven to find answers, all roads led him straight to science, where he broke things down to cells and atoms, almost immediately. He ‘discovered’ several ancient concepts, before finding that they already existed as scientific principles that had been in use for hundreds of years. Some of us might feel that as an intellectual letdown, or a blow to our egos, but Feynman’s personality thrived on pushing beyond the realities that we already know and accept, so that we might find something new. He lived for it.

Feynman’s natural instincts found their own voice by appreciating what came before him, testing it, and then pushing harder. He gleefully shared his ideas and findings in several online lectures and interviews (this is a great one to start with). Because of these ongoing efforts, we are all the beneficiaries of his ability to break down and explain the complexities of our physical being, in fun and simple ways. His fascination with applying new challenges to existing physical laws is his universal gift. It can serve as a powerful booster to our own natural curiosity if we let it. 

I used to have a framed poster of him from the aforementioned 1998 Think different series above my desk. He was the only name in the campaign that I didn’t know, and I was curious why Apple thought we should all be listening to him, philosophically. I have always been grateful for that prompt, because that’s how I became aquainted with his ideas about ideas. His perspectives have often challenged my own, and I think the greatest takeaway, for me, is his idea that when you look past the boundaries of what is normal, you can begin to see possibilities that didn’t exist before you saw them. 

That has always encouraged me to think past the answer I ‘know’ to be right – to the place where possibilities exist. It opens our ability to expand the value of each of our experiences, regardless of their label. When I was younger, it was hard for me to admit when I was wrong. Now I am fully fascinated by how my mind makes so many choices based on habituated patterns, not actual reality (whatever that is). I love finding the other side of that and pushing on my own belief system, because it is free and open for creating new ideas! In ORM, we call it the Ideal Playground. 

As babies, curiosity is quite clearly our first leader. We form our initial ideas about our environment, including our own bodies, by observing things from the inside out. We can’t talk yet, but we have an instinct to vocalize our discomfort instantly. Our existence and growth is often referred to as a miracle, and miracles tend to gather people together in spirit. For a time, the people around us are entranced by how quickly we learn, and if we are lucky, every step we take is appreciated, encouraged and/or cheered while we adjust to our ‘earth legs’ and find our personal balance. 

As children, we readily absorb knowledge from our experiences and our environment as we grow, without shame, blame or judgement. When we hear something that we didn’t already know, we are excited and inspired by the new information – but only to a point. It’s different for every child, so it’s hard to say exactly when it happens… Eventually, our Mentors will begin to quantify and qualify what we know v. what we don’t know, and for a lot of children, this is an impediment for their naturally curious minds. The primary values shift around them; moving from excitement about what is being learned to concern about what hasn’t been learned. This opens the door for shame and fear to come hang out in our thoughts. 

It has become a human pattern, and we continue to reinforce it, organically, by not recognizing the emotional impact that children must navigate when their adults experience shifts in expectations. Once we grow up, when something begins to challenge what we know to be true, we can become more reactive than reasonable.  We are prone to dig in and defend our position, rather than take in new information, especially when we are confident that we are correct. Intellectually, we tend to diverge from Nature’s perfect timeline, as if we have an ability to overcome its limitations. This creates scenarios where we are so sure that we know what is what that we miss all the other possibilities.

The only way to break patterns is to forge new pathways. Whether they be physical, mental, spiritual or emotional, there is always a way to tear down and then rebuild what exists with care and compassion for what came before. When we build the future with regard for the past, we keep the roots of our valued ideas and concepts intact. And even though we know that in many cases, the ideas that once seemed brilliant will soon lose their shine, when we honor that natural progression, we are in the best position to be present when our next idea pushes our belief systems to a place outside its original box, and illuminates the things around it for our amusement and delight.



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