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What It Means to Have a Great Idea

I love the idea of, well, ideas. The concept of concepts. That we can hold the seed of a thought in our minds and culture it from a mere sprout into a tree of knowledge. There is very little that is more abstract than an idea and at the same time few things as influential. If you couldn’t tell, I’m an idea guy. You could even say it’s who I am. In modern times ideas have taken on a whole new life. There’s an entire economy around ideas – creating, developing, and trading them. The leaders in this idea economy have become a type of hero. They are heroes whose stories and autobiographies are read by followers and aspiring future leaders. With regard to these entrepreneurs and founders, It is considered among one of the highest and most lucrative honors to be the patron of a great idea. Like an Olympic torch bearer carrying it all the way to a glorious execution.

The Iconography of Ideas

Light bulbs over heads are iconic representations of great ideas
LIghtbulbs have long been the de facto symbol of an idea

When I think of ideas, I think of the cartoon lightbulb over a person’s head. What more quickly evokes the vision of someone who has just been struck by inspiration? This has been the de facto symbol of having an idea for a very long time. It hasn’t been forever, though. Over the course of human history, the lightbulb is fairly recent. Just about 150 years old. If that’s the case, how did we indicate a bright idea before that? What iconography denoted someone who was suddenly hit by a stroke of brilliance? Maybe it wasn’t that different from what we use currently.

Halos have been the simple of great ideas long before light bulbs
Simon Ushakov’s icon of The Last Supper (1685) – Wikipedia

For centuries and across cultures, the halo has been used to signify a person who has been enlightened. From Christ to Krishna this depiction was the artistic representation of someone filled by a special type of spirit. Well, how else do you get a great idea except through inspiration? That’s exactly what inspiration means, “filled with the spirit.” And when you’re passionate about an idea, aren’t you enthused? Well, enthused means to be “filled with God.” What if the lightbulb is just a modern halo? If so, when you have an idea, especially an important one, doesn’t that make you a saint of the idea? Isn’t your mission to carry this idea out? And what idea can be more important to me than the idea of who I am? I want to be the patron of a great idea, as are the leaders and heroes of modern culture. I want that great idea to be myself.

Being My Own Great Idea

So to stretch the metaphor a bit further, if inspiration is a touch of the divine and carrying a great idea is like sainthood, then I want when my halo burns brightly that I am the patron saint of something meaningful. This has been a large part of my search for a refined sense of identity. I want to know what I stand for, what single cause my life will represent and be able to usher that idea into reality. Perhaps my obvious obsession with identity and the experience of being mean that I should focus on the study of the “self” as a philosopher. That is if I could ever consider myself qualified. Maybe the search itself is a distraction. Or maybe, by developing myself into a more potent human, my life can be meaningful enough to affect others in a great, positive way.

Either way, the quest of understanding myself, and by proxy understanding, the universe is a holy action to me. I consider the “self” sacred, in every case, and the being a temple to the self. Adopting religious terminology and iconography seems appropriate because of how strongly I feel regarding the subject and the level of devotion I hope to give it. In order to claim to care as much as I have been claiming, I need to follow through with measurable and meaningful activity. But how does one birth himself? What needs to be done to manifest an identity that itself manifests good and meaningful works? And are both of those results really one action?

Waiting For the Answers

I am not sure there is much to come from asking these questions. Generally speaking, I know what I want for myself and I also know why, so I can act on those desires. The problem comes when I ask what I am best suited to live for in skill, opportunity, and passion. There is a term for this intersection called ikigai that describes where your livelihood meets what the world needs of you, but what I’m looking for isn’t quite this. Something in me wants a more predestined calling, which I suppose can’t be escaped when you adopt spiritualism as the language of your worldview. Whether or not this is dangerous I’m unsure, but for now, I will continue to work beyond the world of phenomenon and try to find an answer in the world of ideals and abstract concepts. After all, I love the very idea of, well, ideas.

I love organizing ideas. If you are working on a big idea and need help organizing your thoughts, jump on a free call with me and let’s sort it out!