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June 8th, 2020
Envision a typical group of friends, the archetypal group of friends. What are they like? As individuals, how do they decide if they are going to do something or not?
Within any group, there is a tendency toward homogeneity. There is a quality of ‘sameness’ that everyone gravitates towards in order to take part in the experience of belonging to a group. Much of this is just efficiency. It’s easier to abide by the methods that a whole bunch of other people have figured out. If it works for so many others, than surely it must work for me, or so goes the thinking. Regardless of how well a method or a system adopted by the group works, it’s often easier to just go along with it as opposed to starting with a blank slate and attempting to reinvent a better wheel.
When an individual has an idea about something they’d like to do, the first thing such a person usually does is to bounce the idea off the rest of the group. Everyone chimes in with their opinion, and all together the effect of this has more to do with how the idea effects the group rather than how it might fare for the individual. Groups become convinced of their own wisdom by virtue of the fact that there’s agreement or consensus about something. If everyone thinks it’s a bad idea, than it’s probably a bad idea. But again, this is a reflection of the group as it’s own unit, and how it might be affected by the idea of the individual. It’s possible that any idea that is overly beneficial for the individual threatens the cohesiveness of the group. The group as a unit includes that individual, and if that individual has a good idea that might somehow takes them away from the group, the group can have a negative reaction to that idea, though it is often presented in a different guise, one tailored to convince the individual.
From an individual standpoint, this is where solitude can be used as a powerful tool. Divorced from the proximity of other perspectives and their opinions, one is forced to consider deeply their own ideas.
In solitude one has to interrogate their own ideas for value, to interrogate their own self for a desire to pursue that idea, to test how flimsy or strong that desire is, and to match it against values to determine how important the idea is regardless of desire.
The opinion of others can often be a poison and a pollution due to the latent forces that produce it. Certainly a mindful and compassionate person might be able to give honest and helpful feedback, but your average individual is not so pure of mind and intention.
Many and most are riddled with faults, weaknesses and insecurities that thwart and warp their genuine intentions to be helpful. Groups most certainly fall victim to the very same mechanics.
Though this pollution of feedback does not necessarily mean it cannot be useful. But if we have not properly vetted our ideas in solitude with the range of optics we can bring to it alone, then our own stance on the subject does not have proper footing. A lack of introspection leaves us vulnerable to be easily influenced by others: our good idea can be dismissed cringingly by someone who reacts quickly, or our bad idea can be superficially propped up by an enthusiastic friend. In each circumstance, there is no thorough vetting, only a search for someone else to do the thoughtful work.
Independent thought requires first and foremost, independence from others.