You know the term "thought-provoking"? As in, "That was a thought-provoking movie about the East German Secret Police"? (That's a real movie, incidentally, one you should see. It's called "The Lives of Others" and it is thought-provoking, yes, and utterly excellent.)
Anyway, a good friend told me today that she thought my blog was thought-provoking, and that she needed that in her life, that thought provocation was something she was missing.
It got me thinking about what it means to have that person or thing in your life that gets you out of your usual thought-habits and generates something new and something worth spending time contemplating.
Every once in a while I'll feel like that provocation is missing, and when it is missing, I usually try to rectify it as soon as I notice. I read articles on Arts & Letters Daily, or talk to someone who gets me to think in new ways. I wonder how common this is--how many of you have someone or some source you turn to to get your brain jump-started?
And, perhaps more importantly, what benefit do you receive from being jolted in these sometimes pleasant, sometimes not-quite-so-pleasant ways?
As for me, I make metaphors and I weave connections. This is one of my ways of understanding the world. Recently, I was thinking about all the ways people try to change other people's minds and get them to fall into line. (Any HOA in America can provide an example of just this sort of East German police-state mentality.)
So I went from HOAs to the war in Vietnam and Iraq (forcing democracy on another country), to the Communism of the gulags and the Nazis' attempt to take over the world, to the media's attempt to control what you see and hear, to the politicians' legislative efforts to ban this or outlaw that. And all I see is failure, which brought me to this conclusion: The lesson of the 20th century is this: The attempt to force your will on others is always doomed.
Sure, you may get away with it for a while, but the human need for self-direction and liberty is like the quiet, slow scour of a river carving away at a dam. Though it may outlast me, at some point, the Hoover Dam will fail.
The lesson of modern history is this: Lead by example, show your logic, compel with reason and persuasion, but never force, and you will ultimately succeed.
Ah, but who has the patience for this when what the powerful want is to control you, and to control you now? So until we learn the 20th century's lesson, we (as a society) will continue to browbeat and subdue, imprison and record, spin and distort.
So, what's the point? I guess I'm trying to provoke in a post about provocation, but also to show you how important it is to find whatever source helps you break past the surface and do your own thinking and gets you in tune with what your humanity knows to be true.
I certainly do hope I can be a part of the thought provocateur network, and I hope you'll share some of your favorite sources for clarity in a muddled world.