I heard of the KISS system long
ago - keep it simple, stupid. That came
to mind the other day when I read that complexity was the kiss of death
on the web. People don't want more than one idea per article - and that
idea had better be nice and easy. Dense writing does not get read. That's
it, plain and simple.
Plus, people don't want hard words - don't use a long word if a short
one will do. Big words turn people off.
Which people, I wondered? And if it's true, just what does this mean?
Is this the kiss of death for thinking?
I thought of Dead Poet's Society, a brilliant film about a teacher who
really reaches students. The message is the opposite. Use vivid language.
Don't always say sad. Say glum, morose, grief-stricken, sullen.
And I thought of my students. Many of them, college students, display
mental rigidity - almost a rigor mortis of the brain when it comes to
some ideas. All opinions are equal, they hold - and can't recognize that
KKK opinions might not have as much validity as opinions based on evidence,
in this case evidence that humans, whatever our race, are inherently
equal (basic equality in intellectual and emotional range).
Evidence is irrelevant to most of my students, when it comes to opinions.
How can I possibly bring up something like evidence in relationship with
opinions? Even more horrific, how can I possibly question that all opinions
are equal? They look at me as if I were some alien monster.
But, I counter, their opinion means that the opinion that all opinions
are not equal is just as valid as the opinion that all opinions are equal.
After all, all opinions are equal - even the opinion that they are not
equal. That's a contradiction, I continue. Again, that's irrelevant to
most of them. Many faces turn blank and stony.
For more on the inequality of opinions, read Stupid
For another stupid opinion, click onto Stupid
Opinion #1 - the stupid
opinion that we are all where we are meant to be. Millions of people
hold onto it as if to give it up meant death - though this opinion means
that every rape victim, murder victim, everyone who dies in a genocide
is where they are meant to be.
I said, don't keep it simple.
But I am keeping it simple. And my point is equally simple: we
need quality, we need works that challenge and stimulate - or we get
mental couch potatoes.
Our brains, like our bodies, need to learn how to function well - or
our thinking is as clumsy as the violin playing of someone taking their
first lesson. Painful.
For stimulating thinking, try more of The
I don't know if quality triumphs every time. Actually I know it doesn't.
Lots of people like junk food - and junk thinking.
I do know that, with ideas as with food, in many ways, you very often
are what you eat.
Many foods are linked with cancer. I wonder what poor thought patterns
contribute to cancer of the thought processes.
December 16, 2006
copyright © Elsa Schieder 2006
publishing house - FlufferDuff Impressions 2006
Background. This piece
was sparked by a brief blog entry on ezinearticles.com. The main idea:
dense writing does not get read.
The basic point: to get read on the web, keep it simple, simple, simple
- in ideas, in vocabulary (a word I probably shouldn't use, as it's long!!),
in every way.
I don't believe in unnecessary
complexity. I also don't believe in unnecessary simple-mindedness.
Flat language. Flat thinking. A flat-line brain.
I love to think. And I find it boring to be around people who don't.
Imagine dance - two moves only, everything else is just too much. A painting
- two shapes only. Nothing too difficult. And so on, ad nauseum.
As a species, we feed on challenge. I have just been learning web design.
Frustrating - and fascinating.
Another thought on the importance
of ongoing mental challenge. A longitudinal
study was done on a group of nuns. The finding. Those who, when young,
had mental flexibility, a large vocabulary, as well as a wide range of
interests and thought patterns, were mentally undiminished in old age.
On the other hand, those nuns with a narrow and rigid thought range were
often senile - with deep ruts, it seems, dug into their brains.
Of course it's not so simple: some brilliant people are felled by Alzheimer's
and other forms of dementia. But it was great to find out something that
made deep intuitive sense to me: mental flexiblity
is developed and needs to be exercised. It doesn't just happen.
I have an 83-uear-old dance teacher. Very mentally
alert, always ready to see what I've learned, always responsive to the
world around her - which includes keeping up with what's new and changing
in the dance world. She listens outward - instead of deepening ruts in
her brain. A delight to be around.
Again, r esponses welcome.
December 16, 2006
copyright © Elsa Schieder 2006, 2009 - all rights reserved
an idea piece about animals, click here:
Whose Dog Is It Anyway - On Pets, Ownership, Slavery.
a "favorite" stupid opinion, click here for Stupid Opinion
Elsa's creativity blog, on the writing of these ideas and much
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dense writing does not
get read on the web.
Complexity is the kiss of death.
Big words turn
The Idea Emporium asks:
is this the kiss of death
for thinking, critical thought?
Emporium - why and what
One of my lifelong concerns has
been trying to make sense of reality. What is happening? Why is this
happening? And with that I come to ideas - ideas about reality, ideas
that need to be checked against reality, not just believed in like the
tooth fairy is accepted by a child. But how does one check them? What
qualifies as proof, as evidence?
And why, so often, is evidence
of no interest to people? We have masses of evidence of how good many
people are at denying evidence when it goes against what they believe.
Millions have denied, and continue to deny the equality of women and
men, of Jews and nonJews, of atheists and Muslims, gays and heterosexuals.
People are incredible experts at denying reality - what is seen, experienced.
Of course we need to interpret reality - we do not know it "pure"
but through our limited senses, our limited memory, our limited ability
to perceive and make sense of the amazing array of information that does
Still, it boggles the even slightly
rational mind - how can so many people be so utterly blind to, let's
say, findings about nutrition? It amazed me to find out, when I was growing
up, that there was evidence for the health benefits of whole grains over
refined products - because masses of people stuck with white flour, white
rice, white sugar. How could they be so closed to evidence? Somehow they
had a wall against the evidence.
The ideas I want to explore are
those that go with, not against, the evidence, that try to make sense
So, the Idea Emporium - a place
The Idea Emporium - a place where ideas are explored.
The Idea Emporium - a place where ideas are entertained , played with,
looked at from many angles.
The Idea Emporium, a place where ideas are evaluated.
What is an idea, by the way. I
hadn't thought of that when I chose the name of The Idea Emporium. It
just seemed the obviously right name. It was months before I realized
I had a hard time putting into words what I meant by idea. I began to
think about the word. Sentences with the word, idea, floated into my
mind. Like, "I have an idea. Why don't we order pizza?" That
was an eye-opener for me.
My guess is that most of us use
the word without knowing exactly what it means. "I have an idea
of what we might do. Maybe we could go out for Chinese food. But It's
just an idea" - meaning this need not come to pass, but we think
it might be fun. That is obviously not what I meant by idea.
"I have an idea. Maybe you left your hat in the car." Again,
""My idea is that we go in together and talk to her." No.
These are all legitimate uses of the term, idea, but it's not what I
meant when I came to name The Idea Emporium. And I'm sure it's not what
people might expect if they click on The Idea Emporium - because it's
not what most people mean by the word "idea."
Word has a built-in dictionary. This is what it says:
a personal opinion or belief;
a thought to be presented as a suggestion;
an impression or knowledge of something;
a realization of a possible way of doing something or of something to
the aim or purpose of a plan or project;
the gist or précis of something such as a book, report, project
a thought about or mental picture of something such as a future or possible
a concept that exists in the mind only;
a mental image that reflects reality.
The last is what I'm most interested in - ideas that reflect reality
as well as possible. But I've decided that I like it that idea is such
a wide term.
Here I am taking idea to mean (and
I think this is what most of us think of when we think of the meaning
of the word, idea) some thought one has about something. "I have
an idea" - meaning, I am not sure this concept fits reality, but
it is a hypothesis I have formed.
I also think that, when I named
The Idea Emporium, I was blurring words together in my mind - idea, concept,
conception, understanding, hypothesis.
The Idea Emporium - a place for
all these things.
This is not the same as people
having "an idee fixe" - meaning, a fixed idea, a rigid belief
that something is one way or another.
The sooner people get rid of such ideas, the better. The Idea Emporium
is not a place to set out rock-hard beliefs and stone people with them,
hurling them like missiles at all and any that come within striking range.
That is not The Idea Emporium.
The Idea Emporium - a place to
present and explore ideas - for now my ideas.
That does not mean the idea need
to be timidly set forth, all hemming and hawing, tentative even when
the evidence is strong.
The Idea Emporium – the goal
is smart opinions, critical thought, perception, good analysis.
The Idea Emporium. Smart opinions
- meaning, drawing on every resource possible, rather than "it's
my opinion, that's why I believe it, and it's as good as yours any day.
Who are you to say blacks can do math, women can learn to read, Jews
deserve to live. I have every right to my opinion." Personally,
I'd rather do my best to think well, but many others are clearly proud
of their avowed right to be thoughtless.
That's not The Idea Emporium.
The Idea Emporium. Critical thought
- that means we do our best to think well, to apply logic, information,
all our capacities.
The Idea Emporium. Good analysis.
Again, that means we try to ensure that we use valid arguments - not, "because
it's my opinion," "because I say so"
"because I know that's right" "because my god says so" "because
everyone knows that's right" . We both draw conclusions from evidence
(so there may be evidence showing patterns and tendencies in certain
groups (for instance, I've done lots of research on the impact of rights
movements on those who get involved, and have found lots of evidence
for patterns of response) - and at the same time we are careful not to
generalize, to draw conclusions beyond what we have evidence for, and
even contradicting the evidence ("Women are ..." "Muslims
believe ..." "everyone this happens to ..." "Jews
"Gays are ..."
The Idea Emporium. Perception.
Not easy to perceive. We each do it through a filter of experience, memory,
assumptions, and so on. We have all learned not to perceive many things
- denial - and to magnify other things. The goal at The Idea Emporium
(and this should be the goal everywhere) is to be as perceptive - taking
in as much information - as possible.
The Idea Emporium. i could go on
and on. But this is enough for a start. More important now to put it
into action - because it's ideas came first, surging inside me, wanting
to find a place to be heard.
I'm (among other things) a college
teacher, so my teaching gives me one outlet for my ideas, to express
them, modify them, listen to other ideas, test the evidence, the power
(or lack thereof) of different arguments.
But that hasn't been enough for
me. One small class at a time.
I have a sense that I have some
ideas that could be valuable to many people - ideas many people don't
have (many have very different ideas), ideas where my ideas may help
other people struggling with some of the same concerns, and so on. I
think these ideas could help make some kind of positive difference in
the world, reach people who are reachable, maybe even break through some
shells many people live inside, shells that stop them from perceiving
There will be space for the ideas
of others as well. Right now I am starting with a few ideas of mine.
But I envisage that The Idea Emporium is a place that will grow, enriching
both others and also myself - that I and my ideas will grow from some
of what comes back.
July 30, 2006
copyright © Elsa Schieder 2006
publishing house - FlufferDuff Impressions 2006
Questions - on
rage, hatred, narcissism, empathy, caring, peace.
Good thinking and analysis. Logic plus emotion.
The Idea Emporium - facts, ideas, conclusions.
Plus stupid opinions exposed.
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