By: Lavinia Plonka
Hey, What’s the Big Idea?
Let go of such lofty goals
As becoming holy or wise,
And we will all be better off,….
Release all obsessions
And selfish grasping.
Locate the simplicity
Of your own True Nature.
Tao Te Ching – A New Version for All Seekers ~Guy Leekley
The biggest idea I ever realized was to quit my job and become a mime. I thought that doing heartfelt pieces about learning to fly and letting go of fear would transform the way people think and thus change the world. I would walk down the streets of Manhattan fantasizing that some great film director would pass me as I performed and realize that he needed a mime to star in his next film. I imagined myself unwillingly forced to accept the Presidency of the United States as the world realized that it would be so much better to have a bona fide clown in the White House.
Over the years, I’ve learned that most “big ideas” are either doomed, or their creators are doomed. A brief history of the planet will suffice to teach us to wait before pushing our agendas.
Big Ideas Throughout History
The Tower of Babel: Whether it’s fact or fiction, the Tower of Babel story is a cautionary tale to any who dare to think big.
The World is Flat: What were they thinking?
I think, therefore I am: This big idea of Descartes may be almost solely responsible for the catastrophic breakdown in our contemporary mind/bodies. Antonio Damasio (another big idea guy) in his book, Descarte’s Error, rephrases this to say, “I am, therefore I think.” Now there’s an idea.
Let’s grow nothing but potatoes to feed the peasants: Enter the great Irish Famine.
Low fat, high carb diets will make you thin: How much pasta did YOU eat in the 90’s because of this big idea?
The elimination of public transportation in cities in favor of cars: Sigh.
The Third Reich AND Stalinist Communism: ‘nuff said.
The Titanic: A titanic idea! To this day, we suffer from the notion that bigger is better. Now there are ocean liners that are bigger than small towns in New Jersey, complete with theaters, restaurants, tree lined avenues and shopping malls. So let’s see, I pay upwards of $6000 to float in the middle of the ocean in a place that’s just like home. Then again, maybe these mega liners are preparing us for life after the oceans obliterate our coasts. Eureka!
I could get on a roll and start complaining about the state of the world thanks to big ideas like capitalism, fast food, television and drug companies. But it sounds silly coming from a mime who would be king. (Oh right! I’m a girl! I’d have to be a queen!)
Jesus: Love your enemies – Crucifixion
Galileo: We are not the center of the universe: Excommunication
Giordano Bruno: The sun is a star and the universe is filled with infinite worlds: Burned at the stake
Martin Luther King: I have a dream: Assassination
Ghandi: Be the change you want to see: Assassination
Nikola Tesla: Free Electricity: De-funding of his projects, madness.
With these results, I’d rather focus on small ideas. Or ideas that seem small. Size is relative. A friend of mine executed her biggest idea by running away from her abusive home at age 17. She has said that everything else since has seemed almost anticlimactic. Another friend’s big idea was to quit her job and buy a one way ticket around the world. Did it change anything? Who will ever know? But it took a leap of faith to act on her personal big idea.
As long as something remains “a big idea,” it can seem like an impossible dream, like a mime becoming a movie star. Things only happen when that idea becomes the most logical thing in the world. I can only imagine the conversation the Obamas had when our future president told his wife that really, the only way to fix things would be to run for president.
We are inundated with coaches, self-help books, workshops (even my own!), and celebrities who want to help us all grasp the brass ring of our big ideas. Sometimes it feels like if you’re not pursuing a grand passion, you’re a slacker. But often the best ideas come not from pursuing “lofty goals,” but just hanging out. Imagine Archimedes playing in the bathtub, “Wow. I get in and the water goes up. I get out and the water goes down. I add the rubber duck and… eureka! The formula for calculating volume!” Thomas Edison, perhaps the most obsessive of big idea pursuers, credited naps for his inspiration. And of course Penicillin, which may or may not be a boon to mankind, was discovered because Alexander Fleming went on vacation and came back to find a bacteria eating fungus in his lab.
I am extremely proud of my stuffed portabella mushroom recipe, invented one day while cleaning out the refrigerator instead of working on a writing deadline. Some people might call this a small idea that can’t compare with light bulbs or physics. But small ideas are the real game changers. Imagine a world without Velcro. Or sticky notes. Where would we be without refrigerator magnets? The internet began when a bunch of hippie/geeks got hold of military technology and created a bulletin board to chat. I (and my waistline) wouldn’t survive without spandex. Can you remember a world before toilet paper?
There is a Buddhist saying: “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” So each day, I’m spending a little time thinking: How to invent a transporter beam. Ways to end poverty. An affordable alternative to oil and gas. World peace. Maybe if we all start thinking them, we will make the new world.
When not finding new uses for cat litter, Lavinia really does help others with big and small ideas: from walking better to writing better with the Feldenkrais Method. Laviniaplonka.com. Got your big ideas? Share them at Cosmicomedy.com