Great Minds

by Nate Andrew


(photo credit: Jon Meiers)

My friend said to me the other day that ‘great minds think alike.’ Of course, I’ve heard this before. But for some reason, I felt I needed to give it some attention. The fact that I was drowning in boredom at a Laundromat certainly influenced that feeling and undoubtedly gave me some fresh ideas (see what I did there?). I realized the absolute ridiculousness of such a statement. In no way is it true. I could replace the words, ‘Great minds think alike’ with ‘oh my god, like totally’ and no one would know the difference. It’s all just a matter of semantics but I refuse to strip the English language of its integrity by defiling the words in its lexicon. That, however, is beside the point. And if I didn’t at least venture a bit away from my intended topic, then ‘ramblings’ would be an inappropriate description for these posts.

Great minds. Often times, we associate this quality with famous physicists, artists, authors, politicians (maybe not), engineers, architects, composers, generals. Sure, Albert Einstein was a smart guy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wasn’t an idiot, and Charles Dickens could probably write a better paragraph long sentence than anyone else. But what, outside of their intelligence, do these people share? What makes them so different from everyone else? Is it simply that they are absolute geniuses? A lot of people probably think yeah, that would about do it. It’s hard to argue with that. But, I’m going to.

The one thing all these ‘great minds’ shared is that they saw things differently than the rest of the population around them (so sure, great minds think alike in that their thought process wholly differs from the masses). If everyone else was looking at the world through a blindfold, these guys were looking at the world through a microscope. If their peers were hearing the world through earmuffs, these guys were hearing it in high definition Dolby Digital. The genesis of great minds does not come from a huge brain or a massive intelligence. It comes from perspective. It comes from the thought process of an individual being so radically different than that of the people around him, that he discovers something no one else would have. He writes a novel no one else could have written about something no one else ever thought was an issue. He proposes a theory that the earth travels around the sun and gets put in jail for heresy. All because he thought differently than was expected. It all comes down to perspective. If we limited our vision with borders and boundaries, nothing would ever get done. Yet, we do exactly this everyday of our lives. We put blinders on and go about with our narrow minds thinking in the exact fashion we have been told. There are certainly values and beliefs passed on that merit our attention and respect, but do we have to stay so stuck in the idea that nothing should change?

There are obvious social implications to this argument and I certainly think there should be, but I think what is most important is the individual. As human beings, we all have different experiences, we see things in dramatically different ways, and we react differently. But, there is no reason why we can’t change the way we view things or the way we react to things. Yeah, it’s a difficult task to put aside your fully developed prejudices and personal beliefs, but it can be done. To not even attempt to do it is pure obstinance. It’s not as if once you think differently, you can’t return to your roots. But, if you spend some sort of time consciously wondering how else you could think about a given situation, person, political issue, or a simple task, you’ll be better off for it. Even if you think nothing has changed, something has. You’ve given yourself the ability to view things as you never would have viewed them before, a skill we all have and are often taught, but one we put on the wayside far more often.

So, when your friend tells you ‘great minds think alike,’ call bull shit. If everyone was stuck thinking like everyone else, progress would be a thing of fantasy and humanity wouldn’t have anywhere to go but down. Great minds are far more than just a heightened intelligence. Great minds think outside themselves. They are products of perspective. If you have the time, think about things differently than you normally would. Argue with yourself. Argue with your friends. Argue with me. Do what you want. Think how you want. Just don’t go through the motions of life without entertaining the idea that you could be wrong.