Great spirits have always faced violent opposition from mediocre minds. – Albert Einstein
What does that mean?
Like many things Einstein said, there’s a very simple core, but often, many words are needed to get just the right flavor. Dissected, great spirits, violent opposition & mediocre minds are the key portions of the quote. In order, great spirits would be those who do, think, or advocate for change for the betterment of humanity.
Violent opposition would be the actions taken by the establishment, ranging from slander and protest to incarceration and even assassination. Mediocre minds would be the bureaucrats staffing the establishment and all who have bought into the established order (the stake-holders who would have their world inverted by the new order).
To me, they are words of encouragement to those who would try to bring change for the betterment of humanity. Telling them to wear the opposition as a badge of honor, a signpost telling them they were on the correct path. An encouragement to stay the course and keep after the goal despite all the storm and fury outside.
Why is vision important?
Name anyone who is considered a great inventor, a great thinker, a great discoverer. How many were well received in the early stages of their work? Most, if not all, were reviled in their earlier stages. Pushed back by their peers. Yet the greats persisted. How many, without persistence, fell by the wayside? How many great movements have died because the vision wasn’t backed with determination?
We, as humanity, need people with vision. Humans are a tribal, some say a herd, animal. The path of least resistance, even if it doesn’t really get us anywhere or anything, will still be followed. Every once in a great while will we get someone who is willing to shout “STOP!” and point out how silly (unproductive, counterproductive, …) it was to be doing things the same way.
Try the better way. Recognizing the way humans work, the established power knows they have two choices, lose power or knock down the challenger. Unfortunately, most who pursue power do so not for the greater good, but for their good, so their path is pretty clear. Yet somehow, against all odds, some succeed. Humanity takes a new, hopefully better, path.
As easy as it seems to be, there are also Other Than Great spirits out there, who claim to have the next great idea. Most are power hungry con artists. At the worst, you get Heaven’s Gate or Jonestown. Others include Bernard Madoff (the Wall Street con artist) or your least favorite politician. So caution is needed to differentiate between Great Spirits and the other kind.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Many people have strange (to your eyes, ears and mind) ideas. Imagine living in the past, and someone started talking about tiny things you can’t even see. They get in your food, your water, or even the air, and you get sick. Many early researchers into the cause of disease were treated badly by Big Medicine (such as it existed).
Or consider the early pioneers in electricity & magnetism. Again, invisible things move along wires and push against magnets and cause motion, and if you make the motion, you can push these invisible things back along the wires. What a fanciful notion, too much partying last night, perhaps?
At times, diametrically opposed ideas come up, separated by a few years and a couple of key supporters. Global Cooling (1970’s) or global warming (2000’s)? Man made or naturally occurring cycles? How does one make heads or tails of these things, or sort them out?
I usually follow the money – who’s getting rich? They’re the ones most likely to lie to keep the cash flowing. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it’s the best method I’ve found, short of becoming a subject matter expert and reviewing the data first hand.
I would also caution against following the radicals who rebel against the system, because, well, that’s what young radicals do. Most people, at some point in their life, spend a few years as a contrarian of some stripe. They don’t want to do the conventional things. Sometimes it’s because they have a rational (to them) reason to not want to do things, other times it’s just to poke the establishment in the eye.
All I can say is that if you truly believe in it, don’t let knee-jerk push-back from the opposition stop you. Always evaluate (with as open a mind as you can muster) any argument placed before you. If you can’t refute it, do more research until you can, or reconsider your position. Perhaps it needs a little tweak. Perhaps you’re on the wrong path.
As always, questions will guide your way. Answer them faithfully and honestly and your path will be as smooth as can be expected for the human condition.
From: Twitter, undocumented feed (my bad)
confirmed at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins129798.html
Photo by B Rosen