The Care and Feeding of Ideas

Every September there is a fantastic book festival here called Word on the Street.  Everyone who values knowledge and the free exchange of ideas belongs there, regardless of age, background or worldview. Imagine a city park filled with booths promoting graphic novels, children’s stories, magazines, literary journals, literacy foundations, religious groups like Muslims and a spattering of neopagan and new age gurus, and even some authors promoting books that I think were self-published.

In the middle of the park one can find poetry and dramatic readings, special speakers on a variety of social and ethical topics, political debates, and Q&A sessions with a wide variety of publishers, authors, and bloggers. Many of the views represented each year are contradictory. It doesn’t matter, though, because this is a festival of curiosity, wonder at the world around us, and the cross-pollination of ideas.

Ideas rot from the inside out if we never test them, share them with others, or listen the views of people who see the world in a different way. It doesn’t matter what the idea is, isolation breeds extremist views that can do much more harm than good.

Think of what would happen if a small group of people were secluded from the outside world.  Sooner or later, their descendants will become inbred and if new members are not at least occasionally introduced the community could easily die out altogether. Relying on the same gene pool (or way of looking at the world) year after year increases the chances that recessive genes (or  really, really bad ideas) will pop up.

This is why I love Word on the Street. Yes, the food is delicious. Yes, it is wonderful to discover new authors, listen to discussions about e-books and blogging, or pick up free bookmarks or magazine samples at the booths. The exchange of  ideas, though, is where the magic happens. Even in a large city like Toronto people tend to drift to other people who think, act and believe like them. This may be a diverse city comprised of  many different communities but these communities still look and act like a small town in both positive and negative ways. A close-knit community can be fantastic support system; it can also be unbelievably suffocatingfor anyone who cannot fit the mold of who or what someone in that community is supposed to be.

Slowly I have been accumulating friends who value the art of conversation, who don’t expect anyone to change his or her mind or for any sort of consensus to be agreed upon. I just wish I knew how to stumble upon them more quickly!

0 Responses to The Care and Feeding of Ideas

  1. Wish I could have been there with you … this is what i like about city centers and the reason we plan on moving downtown phoenix in feb.

  2. I think this may be the best thing I’ve read of your writing. Both of us think you should be writing for a newspaper…maybe on an editorial page. This article is a tremendous promotion for this event! It makes me want to be there!!
    Your thoughts are words that I can’t seem to find when expressing how I feel. A festival of curiosity? Cross -pollination of ideas? Beautifully written and expressed. Thank you so much!

  3. My favorite string of words in this post was … “Ideas rot from the inside out if we never test them, share them with others, or listen the views of people who see the world in a different way. It doesn’t matter what the idea is, isolation breeds extremist views that can do much more harm than good.”

    Nice bit of writing indeed.

    • “Trust, like mistrust, is earned but not given.
      Trust leads to Faith.
      Faith without Reason leads to Blind-faith.
      Blind-faith leads to degenerative Fundamentalism.
      Degenerative Fundamentalism prohibits change and cripples education.
      Degenerative Fundamentalism leads to isolationism.
      Isolationism eventually leads to extremism.
      Extremism manifests itself as either terrorism or extinction”

      …from The Innerrantist, Part Four: Extinction

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