Ideas Have Legs

I have to confess, I am a Star Trek Fan.
Take the part where Jean Luc Picard speaks to 21 century humans who have been awaken after 300 years in cryogenic state and calmly explains we have nor need of material ambitions, money, wars or aggressive competition. We put that part of our human history well truly behind us. Now we focus on cooperating and discovery of the universe. The future is so much better than the past.

This is such a powerful idea.  Today, people are aghast and angry that perhaps the next generation (or even in the next 5 years) we may be more poor or be worse off;  for surely our destiny is onwards and upwards. But where did this idea begin?

In the ancient world the idea of progress was unheard of.  The ‘future’ was much the same as the present (or in the Hindu world it was cyclical).  The’ middle’ is often called the dark ages because many thought society had regressed from the Golden age of Ancient Big civilizations, such as the Greek and Roman empires.

Yet through small beginnings this idea was nurtured of progress particularly through commitment to invention, a movement to a better world and life into the future could be achieved.

Francis Bacon judged that, “owing mainly to an undue reverence for the past (as well as to an excessive absorption in cultural vanities and frivolities), the intellectual life of Europe had reached a kind of impasse or standstill”. Yet he believed there was a way beyond this stagnation if persons of learning, armed with new methods and insights, would simply open their eyes and minds to the world around them. This at any rate was the basic argument of his seminal 1605 treatise The Proficience and Advancement of Learning, arguably the first important philosophical work to be published in English.

This idea was scoffed at first. It stood against the wisdom of the day, but it began to grow legs, walk and then run through history –  growing, adapting and changing us to the modern world of today.

As a side track, are ideas ever really completely new? Some may argue Bacon may have been influenced by writing some 1100 years earlier when Augustine put forward a view of History that it is moving forward from its Beginning Creation to the New Jerusalem

But why am I babbling on about ideas?

Part of me some weeks ago felt a little bit trapped thinking about my work over the years of working mainly with Ideas. I was not really getting out there practically helping and serving those in need. Maybe what I’m working on is a waste of time. BUT then I remembered an old friend’s devotion entitled Ideas Have Legs. They run through History shaping our lives.

Being part of a Christian Higher Education, we work with ideas. We read them and analyze them and apply them. We also generate them.

A Fellow traveller, Professor David Smith, noticed because of His Christian worldview that most of the text books teaching foreign languages were framed by the big idea of consumerism. He asked the question, what if we made THE BIG IDEA OF HOSPITALITY the central idea of our foreign language program? What would it look like?

His approach is transforming one.

We need to conceptualize the present practices and ideas behind them in the light of the Gospel, let it show us the distortions and gaps, and then reconceptualise around a kingdom vision/dream… and ask WHAT IF?

This talk was given at an Eastern College Gathering on Wednesday, 16-Aug-2017

By Andrew Schmidt
Bachelor of Education Course Director

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