“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
I decided that I should address this colloquialism. I throw the phrase around a lot, but I’m not sure people appreciate what I intend to mean when I use it.
Small-mindedness. When I think of the word, I think of people who fail to utilize their own value judgments. Most of these people don’t have any of their own. They feign the opinion of others. They live vicariously through fictions, through religions, through the authority of others. They create no fiction of their own, they have no faith in themselves apart from the faith their institution permits them to keep, and they fail to exercise any authority over their world, thinking that they are not yet in a position to arbitrate.
The greatest defining feature of small-mindedness is best characterized by Eleanor Roosevelt in the aforementioned quote. She understood that greatness exists in the ability to create and leverage ideas, the only enduring properties of life worth anything of value. Events come and go, and people are constantly changing and evolving.
Those who are constantly swept up in the current of gossip and drama are victims of their own pallid preoccupations. Their world is wrapped up in meaningless and trite drama coined by others and empowered by their endorsement. They have no life of their own, so they must attend to evaluating the lives of others as critics. But is being critical a bad thing? I should think not, unless it prevents you from acting. Critical inquiry should exist for the sake of progress, not for entertainment. Sure, it’s amusing to parrot on about so and so and assert a value judgement on their lives, but any attendance to the cultivation of your own life’s value is temporarily lost.
So I support Miss Roosevelt. The dreamers are the idea generators, the perception producers. They do not accept reality. They create reality. They do not attend to the mass opinion, nor do they worry about keeping up with the Joneses or comparing and contrasting their worth to other little people. They pay no heed to the critics seated on the sidelines.
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Small people. Little minds. This is the world’s majority. Why am I so special? What makes me exempt from possessing these “little” qualities? I believe it has to do with the scope of my thoughts, the context of my curiosity, and my aversion for subservience. I strive to avoid discussing people. I abhor gossip as much as I disdain drama. These activities are wasted energy, negative energy that seeks to limit and oppress others in order to elevate the speaker into a false superior position. There is no action, no resolution, no progress when gossiping or dramatizing. It is only tit for tat, pecking and picking and pruning.
Likewise, I refuse to accept creeds and commands at face value. I will not readily adopt the ideas of others unless I know them to be tried and true and tested to benefit my specific ends. I am not a mere calculator, not a cog. I am a creator, an individual with a refined perspective, a personal perspective that’s been diligently curated over the course of many years. Authority poses no power over me unless I recognize and diagnose a specific utility for bending to it’s will that outweighs the utility of its rejection.
What I seek to cultivate is my ability to conjure and create and manipulate ideas. Ideas are the fodder that ignites and animates our reality. Ideas are the mental scaffolding that assembles and structures values. Ideas provide the conceptual framework for perceiving and judging. When you master ideas, you master yourself, you master others, you master life. No other pursuit will lead you there. Not people. Not events. Only ideas provide the utility to mend and mold a mind towards ends and achievement.
But in order to conjure ideas, I believe an ego is needed. This ego must be self-efficacious enough to create and construct new narratives and weave these wondrous worlds into belief. Specifically, an ego strong enough to fend off the competing ideas of others. You need to have an ego that is resilient and resolute enough to withstand criticism and rejection and disconnection.
Surely, I’m not perfect, but I strive towards the ideal of perfection. I stumble as much as anyone, but I never let myself get comfortable with being down, or being okay.
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. —Mark Twain
Small minds impress their small thinking onto their small world, a single reality, devoid of alternative perspective. They cannot see beyond the small possibility they’ve been afforded by others, and so they hold all other minds to that poor possibility. To rise above, to step beyond the realms of their reason is a grievance and outrage they have trouble rationalizing. They would, as a result, prefer to maintain appearances and secure a safe status quo for themselves, living in a prescribed box of what’s possible based on what’s already been done. And so progress buds but never blooms.