I believe that the only way to understand what something is is to imagine a world where it is not. Not necessarily a world where the particular something does not exist, but does not exist as we know it to exist. I believe that human beings learn by science, but come to understand by imagination. The ability to doubt is perhaps the most integral aspect of humanity.
What if, one day, people stopped aging. The entire world, all at once, stopped getting older. Infants remained forever infants, adolescents adolescents, adults adults. People would continue to amass experience and, in that sense, mature but would grow no more. For how long would traditional age stereotypes perpetuate? Would the adults always rule over the rest of society? Only by doubting the situation that is, by imagining a situation that is not, can we understand why the situation is.
I believe that large-scale leadership hinges on the aging process.
What if, one day, everyone simultaneously developed the ability to read the thoughts of others? In an instant, the final bastion of personal privacy, the human mind, is breached. Mental impulses, misguided or genuine, are no longer mere thoughts but conversation. Creative output, poetry, storytelling, music, slowly declines; what is to be gained from writing down what everyone already knows you know? Competition ceases; how can one compete with an opponent who knows one’s every thought, idea and plan? Physical ability becomes the final medium for personal achievement as all cognitive production is now instantly deposited into the greater pool of human consciousness. Human beings, robbed of the potential for individual success, no longer seek it and societal progress comes to a standstill.
I believe that the progression and success of the human race hinges on solipsism.
These are just two examples of the power of human doubt. I believe that every situation discernable has an alternative imaginable and only by imagining that alternative can the discernable be understood.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.