It’s simplistic and misleading, but it’s also perfectly true that everything is an idea.
Especially in the human realm, everything that we see, every thought that we think, every relationship that exists, every moment of time that occurs in contemplation, or in reminiscence exists or is reflected in the mind. If it doesn’t, we are not aware of it, and therefore, to us, it does not exist. Its effects may still exist, and so we may posit it as a thing, but the thing itself must exist in our minds, or to us, it doesn’t.
It is probable that there is an existence independent of our awareness of it – but what difference does it make to us? And if this is true, there is much that we can also gain a deeper appreciation of: Human systems are created by us – therefore each and every human system would never have existed without our awareness of it. Importantly, what does that mean for the creation of future human systems? It means that they must begin with human awareness.
It’s tempting to say that we can imagine a new reality – and in one sense we can – but there is more to it than that. There is consensus that must be created. There is awareness, reflection, discussion, transmission, assimilation, and finally, the action of creation. Change, on a great scale, can seem overwhelmingly, breathtakingly, fast. But that is only because the only part of the change that can be easily seen is action. We may see a few of the memes cropping up here and there within the media, or sense reoccurring patterns within communication. We may experience a subtle awareness of shifting beliefs and ideas, but in the millions of individual reckonings, the thousands of deep conversations between influential opinion makers (who may not even realize that they are) there is a cultural dialog through which emerges a new concept of our world.
A few may feel that they understand the broad strokes of this process – possibly some even feel they have gone further than this. These people may seek to influence the culture through media, advertising, and subtle memes. But the property of emergence and the understandings of complexity hint that there may not be any possibility of predicting emergent behaviors with certainty.
So when the “unthinkable” happens, a few surely saw it coming. A few were in the way of the swing – and they almost surely felt the tension building as the sea of opinion rocked them. It can as easily be understood as a person coming to understand a new belief, but replicated and magnified across the spectrum of ages, beliefs, genders and culture, subtly or greatly changing each person who learns this new idea or behavior. If we could see these shifting beliefs from a height, we would see them sweeping as wind across fields of wheat – spreading through print, video and conversation, igniting small understandings and occasionally culminating in massive shifts of culture.