[Feed Your Mind]*
by Oliver James DeMille
A Powerful Tool and Purple Cows
Apart from the influence of the divine, the human mind is the most powerful force on earth. It has the capacity to observe, analyze, and interact with the world and–ultimately–to change it in any number of ways.
The mind is the greatest factor of change in history and the tool most utilized by mankind to achieve its ends.
When properly used, our minds allow us to have great impact on our immediate surroundings and on the world as a whole.
Of course our minds, however powerful, have limits. They are dependent on the senses. The human brain is incapable of thinking of that of which it has no prior experience. The power of imagination is not truly the creation of new ideas but the combining of old ones in new ways.
The old poem says: “I’ve never seen a purple cow…” and I believe that very few people have. However, we have all seen purple and we have all seen cows, and our imagination allows us to combine these two concepts into one: a purple cow.
Building Blocks and Words
Our minds can construct almost anything if they have the right building blocks, but without these blocks creation isn’t possible.
An important part of education is exposing the mind to many different ideas and looking for the possible patterns and connections. With each new idea our capacity to think and imagine and create is increased.
Ideas can become a source of power for their own sake, as well as for the new things they allow us to dream up.
However, our minds need more than just ideas if they are going to cause real change in the world or even in our personal lives. They need words. Just as our minds are limited by the quality and quantity of ideas we give it to work with, their influence on the outside world is limited by the words they possess to express those ideas.
Most people can’t even fully understand an idea without putting it in words–even just in their own thoughts. Words are our method of converting raw sensory data into something which can be measured, categorized, analyzed, and compared with all past and future input thus converted.
Words allow for higher reasoning, and the more words we have at our command the greater our power to reason in an effective and impactful manner.
Languages and Changing the World
Those who wish to learn, grow, and implement true and lasting change in the world should expand their command of their native tongue, and many should also master at least one other language.
In learning your native language you become more capable of understanding ideas you’ve gained so far, and you’re able to assimilate increasingly more complex concepts.
In learning a foreign tongue, you must learn to communicate all that you know in new and unexplored ways. You push the limits of your imagination so as to communicate even the most basic ideas. As you gain mastery of the language you may think of each idea in ways that were impossible before.
Not only do you benefit from a new format for your thoughts, but you may compare the different ways the two languages define and describe an idea. In so doing you can make connections that are impossible for those who speak only one or the other of these two languages.
In a world that is increasingly international, leaders and statesmen need the ability to think and act on a global level. We must be able to understand and be understood in a multi-cultural society.
We must have the ability to move and change wherever we are needed and not be fettered by our own lack of ideas or the words to communicate them.
We’ve been given a very powerful tool to change the world that only needs sharpening to reach its full potential. With or without us, the world will change. We must be ready and able to ensure that the changes made are the right ones.
*Portuguese [Oliver is fluent from missionary service in Brazil]
You can enjoy more of Oliver’s thoughts as we discuss Potok’s The Chosen this month in Mentoring in the Classics >>