A Drop In The Ocean
Almost 7,000,000,000 people inhabit this Earth. You, like me, would like to make it a better place to live. You have an idea in mind, perhaps a very good idea. You are excited. You know your idea will help people.
Then you think about getting your message out to 7 billion people and you freeze.
Right there, right then, your idea dies. It dies of seeming impossibility. How on Earth are you going to get your idea out there? It's just too much to do and you surrender to your fear, to "can't."
It doesn't have to be that way. You just need to know how.
In The Beginning
Within the ancient traditions of India, Judea, Greece, and Iran, there is a concept of the universal oneness of everything. An ocean of all. Each of us is as a drop in that ocean. Perhaps making a small ripple when our drop strikes the surface, then merging with the all. This image is beautiful, giving us a feeling of connection with all others, of participation, belonging, even need, for what is an ocean without drops of water? But this idea leaves us impotent. Mere drops merged with the vastness of the endless sea.
As drops, we see ourselves as unlikely to change the ocean. We ride the waves, like the good drops that we are. Maybe we make a brief little ripple. Maybe we try to still the waters, to fight the ocean. We believe, as mere drops, that we have little power. A few of us try. Fewer still make a splash, the splash waiting in our hearts.
It Has Always Been Done This Way
Those who did make differences did so in ways we would recognize as normal, traditional methods. For many millennia, wise people told stories, entertained and informed. They shared their wisdom. At first around the family hearth. Then in communal ceremonies. Later in churches, temples, mosques, and public forums. Word of mouth was the way and good ideas moved slowly.
As ideas moved orally, they also moved inaccurately as anyone knows who has experienced the game "telephone", where a group of people sit in a ring and pass a message around. The message, whispered by the originator into the ear of the first person, then the first to the second, by the second to the third, and so on, becomes so different by the tenth person as to be almost unrecognizable to the originator.
Such is the error of human interpretation and oral transmission. It is this legacy of oral transmission that underpins so much of our ancient wisdom. Even wisdom that was sooner or later moved into the oral tradition of learned keepers transmitting from generation to generation suffered before their capable techniques were applied. Once ensconced in the minds of these specialists, their accuracy increased but the spread of the ideas was extremely limited. Moving an idea required moving a man. Acquiring a copy meant long years of study.
Watch the oral tradition in action. From the BBC series "Story of India" with Michael Wood.
By the way, you can purchase this amazing 6 hour series on DVD, Blu-ray, or Amazon Instant Video here. One of my all-time favorite videos. I just love Michael Wood and there is nothing on Earth like India.
Wisdom was eventually written down but not until numerous transmissions from wise person to wise person. Each added his or her unique personality to the interpretation of the message. The original idea, despite best intentions, was distorted or, worse, lost, transformed into the unrecognizable despite attribution to the originator. All of our ancient religious texts from the Vedas, Bible, Pali Canon, to the Koran were written after the lifetimes of the original speakers. Ultimately, who knows what was truly said?
With the invention and wider distribution of written material, much of the problem of oral transmission was improved. What remained was the interpreter. The wise man, the one who had the book, who could read, who could teach and inform. A rare individual with special skills and special resources. The message subject to his personal interpretation and his selective transmission. The handwritten documents, themselves, were time-consuming and expensive to produce, and subject to copying errors. Ideas translated from foreign languages introduced a whole host of new inaccuracies and interpretations. Messages moved more widely, quickly, and accurately but there was still much room for improvement.
Education by such teachers formed the backbone of the transmission of wisdom from one to many. This, when combined with the printing press, allowed for huge improvements in wisdom transmission. Ideas could move at the speed of generations. Change could be distributed over wide areas in mere centuries without being entirely corrupted, although translation remained a challenge, as it does even to this day.
Culture And Tradition
Ideas that move slowly have a way of becoming ingrained in a society. The culture adapts to the new idea. It becomes the 'truth' by which that society lives. People within that society use the wisdom for their own purposes. Usually this is good but not always. Those with a desire for power and control have traditionally used wisdom to achieve their aims.
The history of Christianity couldn't be a clearer example. Since ideas moved slowly, inaccurately, and incompletely, a selective presentation of the wisdom often was all that was needed to control others. The wisdom could be manipulated to serve their needs and little could be done to prevent it. Many people could not read and the documents were not available, even if they could. Power ran to those who had the wisdom, just as it has always done throughout human existence.
Over the last couple of hundred years, developed societies have evolved to the point of near universal access to ideas. We can (almost) all read and we have access to innumerable books on every subject imaginable. Libraries even make this information available for free. Ideas can move at the speed of print in this way.
When you think of print as the means to spread your ideas you also realize that you need people to help. Publishers need to print it. Book stores need to carry it. Reviewers need to favor it. Teachers need to teach it. In short, the transmission is still dependent on the approval of others and power structures at some level. Getting your idea out there is a major effort and highly dependent upon specific others for its transmission. Wise men, the preachers and teachers, the publishers, reviewers, and booksellers remain the gateways to distribution. Your message is dependent on their agreement and support.
The Internet - A Complete Game Changer
Around 2 billion out of the 7 billion people on Earth are online. The numbers are growing at an incredible rate. I traveled all over southeast Asia in the past two years and I can hardly think of a place I went that didn't have internet access. Small villages in remote corners were connected. The internet is almost everywhere. It is so everywhere that I don't worry about traveling and needing access to do my job here at WisdomWebsite. I just go, and go online. No problem.
The internet solves almost all of the problems with getting your wisdom out there. Transmitting your idea is instantaneous. Word of mouth is now word of email, word of Twitter, or word of Facebook. You can get your idea in the hands of those whom you know in moments. Your idea is transmitted unaltered on your website. Even translation can be achieved with greater accuracy through multiple, collaborative translators online.
Few barriers exist to the transmission of good ideas and it is this that makes the internet a complete game changer. Now, via the tools of the internet, you can change the world.
That difference you want to make? It is possible. In part two I'll explain how...Click here to read Change The World – How You Can Make A Difference – Part 2