I’m talking about Farnam Street’s Mental Models page. My education didn’t give me the big ideas. Incorporating these big, universal ideas into your arsenal is one of the best protective measures in a world with big risk and a huge amount of uncertainty. I understand this now.
Whilst flicking through E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful, I came across this passage.
“The way in which we experience and interpret the world obviously depends very much indeed on the kind of ideas that fill our minds. If they are mainly small, weak, superficial, and incoherent, life will appear insipid, uninteresting, petty and chaotic. It is difficult to bear the resultant feeling of emptiness, and the vacuum of our minds may only too easily be filled by some big, fantastic notion – political or otherwise – which suddenly seems to illuminate everything and to give meaning and purpose to our existence. It needs no emphasis that herein lies one of the great dangers of our time.”
If we’re not proactive, this is how religious and ideological dogma first infiltrates our mind. We stop learning, realise how inadequate our education is in the face of the chaos of the world and search around for something bigger than ourselves to cling to.
“If the mind cannot bring to the world a set – or, shall we say, a tool-box – of powerful ideas, the world must appear to it as a chaos, a mass of unrelated phenomena, of meaningless events.”
But when we are let loose into the world, we are given a map. After education you transition to meaningful work and spend the rest of your life contributing to society. Doing good. For most, this proves to be bullshit. Maps are abstractions of reality. They have to simplify the terrain they represent. The map we have of our life is often inaccurate.
“A man who uses an imaginary map, thinking it a true one, is likely to be worse off than someone with no map at all; for he will fail to inquire wherever he can, to observe every detail on his way, and to search continuously with all his senses and all his intelligence for indications of where he should go.”
Fail to do so, and intellectual stagnation becomes a dangerous possibility.