Tuesday, March 1, 2011

On Being an Idea Hobo

I have several ideas I'd like to share but all are predicated on this first idea - on being an Idea Hobo. It would be fair to say this is my current prevailing philosophy on life, the universe, and everything. (I tried 42 but it never seemed to work for me).

Let's begin by attempting to define what I consider an Idea and how it might differ from other terms people use when describing their philosophy. I consider an idea to be a mental representation of an abstract Ideal. It is the signifier or proxy for an Ideal we cannot experience directly but can imply exists through the exercising of its proxy - the idea. Put another way, ideas are an imperfect representation of a Truth. They are shaped by our perspective of that Truth and will almost certainly be lacking some quality of the Truth they represent.

Because of this ideas are only useful if practiced and they will almost certainly change - usually to a closer representation of the Ideal - as they are exercised. This makes them different from what I will call modern beliefs. Modern beliefs provide a known answer or an authoritative truth as opposed to an idea's acknowledged imperfect proxy for truth. Modern beliefs are seductive because they allow their subscribers to claim righteousness as advocates of Truth without regard to their own behavior. Extreme examples of this behavior can be found in practically all human endeavors, including my chosen profession - programming (.Net vs Ruby, OO vs OO [j/k]). This is not to say any of the ideas found within a modern belief are wrong, but subscribers treat those ideas as Truth instead of a (possibly/likely) flawed representation of Truth. This - they believe - frees them of the responsibility to continue to exercise (challenge) their ideas and to continue to seek Truth. Why seek what you've already found?

Enter the Hobo. A hobo is a worker who wanders. They are willing to work hard but have no issue moving on when the work in unavailable or when they wish to explore a new area. If you abandon the notion of modern belief as I describe above and adopt ideas as your only access to Truth then, much like a hobo, it is reasonable to conclude you will have to work (practice) your ideas and, should you find them sufficiently flawed, move on to new ideas. Even if your practice doesn't lead to fundamental changes in your idea it will almost certainly lead to refinements that alter your ideas - perhaps only subtly. Ceasing to practice an idea is akin to a hobo moving on to another town. You simply no longer occupy that space and so it is no longer relevant to you.

In practice this means challenges to your ideas are an opportunity to work them - to refine them to a more accurate representation of Truth. This isn't the same as embracing challenges - simply an acknowledgement of the value of practice and your willingness to expend the effort. There may be moments when you are not prepared to work your ideas but these are not moments of anger, simply admissions of a lack of desire. This also means you must actively seek opportunities to practice your ideas. If I have an idea of Love that includes a humble attitude then every day affords me opportunities to practice that idea. As my practice refines an idea and my behaviors better reflect the Truth it represents I gain the ability to accept more challenges. I have experience to provide the value of my idea in addition to logic and reason.