October 21, 2017
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The Bad Idea

By Christopher Theodore

Consider the bad idea. Who hasn't had one?  An idea that was fundamentally flawed, half-baked, base-- however you want to call it— an idea that is worthless.

But bad ideas aren’t always obvious.  Sometimes they're presented to us between or by attractive people.  Sometimes within the bad idea there are things that attract us.  So how do you know an idea is bad?  Sometimes there is nothing to figure out.  An idea is so bad it makes you sick to your stomach.  Other times, an idea you're wondering about keeps running into ideas you know to be true, ideas that make you who you are. 

Sometimes we recognize a bad idea by our experience of the difference between what it promises and what it does. Pornography promises pleasure and satisfaction yet is a known destroyer of relationships, ambition and self-worth.

When you're faced with an idea you know is bad what do you normally do?  When the bad idea comes up, my guess is that you don’t waste time exploring its every detail, waste time talking to others about it, reading about it.  You're on to better things. If you spend any time at all with a bad idea—you do with the understanding the idea is worthless.    

But something funny happens when everyone’s reporting on, talking and reading about a clearly bad idea as if they are still making up their minds about it.  Questions arise as to whether or not the bad idea is actually bad.  Those taking part in the discussion of the bad idea lose and build something: they lose confidence and build the bad idea into legitimacy.

Finally, this:

Bad ideas can be in the form of a person. Take the old charlatans of the 19th century selling elixirs made of sugar water promising to restore hair, end back pain. What gave these living, breathing bad ideas of yore legitimacy was the crowd itself, some skeptical, some undecided— but unfortunately, there-- giving new credence to debunked, discredited bad ideas. It has always been the crowd that gave charlatans their power. Nothing else.

Take the crowd away and a bad idea’s power wanes, sputters, and washes away.

I tried this beginning about two weeks ago: Frustrated by seeing a particular fountain of bad ideas constantly reported on, and the reporting reported on, I simply started to avoid reading, listening or thinking about this particular bad idea and all of a sudden I started to feel a lot more satisfied with the state of the world. I realized that this particular bad idea was particularly worthless and as such it was particularly important to make the decision to move on and avoid it.

The bad idea itself wasn’t particularly dangerous or interesting for that matter. What was dangerous and interesting was how and why the bad idea has lasted so long.