Tag Archives: ideas

What if everything you know is wrong?

Be loyal, and oppose. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

What if it turned out that the world was flat? Can you even show beyond doubt that it isn’t?

We don’t know what we don’t know, and we think we know what we think we know.

A person who goes around questioning everything is called crazy.

And yet, the opposite of crazy is conventional wisdom, or common sense.

Common sense says that it’s good to go to college, vote, drink milk, buy a house, and work your way up the corporate ladder.

I’ve done all of these things, and I don’t recommend any of them. I think some of the things recommended by conventional wisdom are crazy things.

In the Parliamentary system, there is an official, loyal opposition. The duty of the loyal opposition is to show that the people in power are wrong.

The opposition is called loyal because challenging power is valuable, even necessary.

I think it should be someone’s job in society to challenge powerful ideas.

Each week this person should write an article on topics like:

– your school grades don’t matter
– the experts are wrong
– democracy is a bad idea
– economic growth is dangerous
– dinosaurs and humans walked the earth together

I don’t think dinosaurs and people ever walked the earth together, but apparently some people do, and it may be worth understanding why. Or maybe not.

I don’t know what I don’t know, but by definition the person who does know will think differently than I do.

They might also be crazy.

Sometimes however the loyal opposition is going to be right.

After all, college may in fact be a waste of time, and voting may not make a difference.

– Find something that, your whole life, everybody has accepted uncritically as good
– Come up with all the reasons it isn’t
– Turn those reasons into opportunities
– Invent a product or service or new conventional wisdom that everyone fixated on the old conventional wisdom can’t see, because they think they know what they think they know and don’t know what they don’t know.

This is how all human progress works.

Is there a better way?

Seek not, and ye shalln’t find. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

I have a Post-It Note fixed to my desk, next to my keyboard. On it are written the words “IS THERE A BETTER WAY?”

I realize how this must look—like I’m at my rope’s end.

But I’m not saying “there’s got to be a better way.” There doesn’t. Everything in my world might be as good as it could ever be, and if that’s so I’m fine with it.

My life is good, after all.

Asking “is there a better way?” is not about hating how things are, or wishing they were better. It’s about cultivating an inquisitive, active mind.

A mind that is alert to the better way to open doors, to take notes, to eat food, to keep up with friends, to learn, to do laundry, to write a book, to build relationships, to find joy, to make a home, to be idle.

I’ve become an enthusiast of simplicity. Often, the better way is a more simple way. If I can do something in three steps and five minutes that yesterday took me five steps and fifteen, I’d say that’s a better way.

What I’m describing is the cultivation of an active mental discipline. Everything in our world works against it: gravity, habit, human laziness, fear, vested political interests, tradition, experts.

We probably will never find something we haven’t decided to look for. Seek, and ye shall find; don’t seek, and ye shalln’t.

Is donating the bulk of your material possessions to charity a better way? Or dropping out of school? Maybe it’s making less money and having more joy, or stopping everything you’re doing right now, to instead relax and take stock of your blessings.

I don’t know, and maybe neither do you. And the reason is probably because we’ve never decided we want to know.

What we do know are the things we never even asked to know—the conventional ways of thinking and doing:

– Follow the rules
– Go to school
– Get a job
– Work
– Retire
– Die

Is there a better way? The question doesn’t seem quite so weird when you consider the alternatives.