Monday, June 15, 2009

on making up your mind with clichés

During a recent discussion on creativity with a colleague (there's quite a bit of that going around at our lab lately), he made a remark that I interpret as "You can't hope to change the mind of somebody who has made up their mind". That's not exactly what he said, but that's how I am going to interpret it for the sake of this post. He felt that only fence-sitters could be swayed. Once you're on one side of the fence, there's no way you'll be able to haul yourself back to the opposing side, even if the grass is greener over there. Personally, I feel that whether or not you can climb the fence again depends heavily on how much you have invested in your back garden. Sometimes its hard to write off your investment and run into foreign territory. Also, I suspect, some people are better climbers than others. How's that for a string of lousy metaphors to start the ball rolling?

So where am I going with this? We have all heard the cliché that we must "accept change". This grates like a block of cheese. Change, instability and complete and utter (to quote Paul Sherwen) chaos are steps on a steady decline. This is not how the universe works. Let's take the evolutionary process for example. It doesn't just throw away things and replace them with novelty! It selects the successful strategies and slowly weeds out those that are less so... in nature, evolution has shown itself to be superior to revolution. I don't see why anybody in their right mind would adopt "accept change" as their personal motto. According to my theory, either those who live by and spout such nonsense are not of right mind, or I am simply a poor fence climber.

One argument I have heard in favour of accepting change runs, "change is inevitible so you may as well accept it". There's no point in fighting a losing battle... get onside and move forwards. This sounds to me like a cop out. If you are opposed to something, the hardest thing to do is stand up and fight. This approach could cost you your life, or the lives of those around you. An unfortunate consequence that too often holds true. The easy, and often peaceful, way out is to accept change. Sit silently. Say nothing. Maintan the status quo. Resistance is futile. Be at peace with the world.

Is the fight ever worth the cost? How much have you invested in your back garden? How green is your neighbour's lawn? This is a question that only an individual can answer. There cannot be a "one size fits all" solution to this problem. I will make up my own mind and I leave it to you to make up yours as the need arises.

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