Thoughts Too Big for Us

Posted by on May 2, 2011

The MondayMorningMemo for May 2, 2011

We stay too busy to think big thoughts. This frantic busyness, this voluntary slavery to the merely urgent is preferred, I think, because big thoughts make us realize that we are much smaller creatures than we like to pretend.

“We often talk about Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 in terms of failures: failures of intelligence, failures of planning, failures of communication. But these catastrophes were first and foremost failures of imagination. Did we know that a major hurricane could destroy New Orleans? Yes: it was even part of the tour guides’ spiel. Did we know terrorists wanted to bring down the World Trade Center? Yes: they made a credible attempt in 1993. And what did we do with what we knew? Nothing. Some disasters, I think, are so big and so awful they are literally beyond our power to conceive. So, we dismiss them out of hand, retreat to the ‘knowledge’ that a thing can’t happen because, well, it just can’t.”
– Leonard Pitts, July 6, 2006

America’s largest mortgage companies and accounting firms were engaged in fraud; such massive fraud that it nearly toppled our national economy; but the Justice Department and the SEC chose to look the other way and pretend that everything was fine.

British Petroleum drilled deeper in the ocean than they could control and our safety inspectors just crossed their fingers and joined in the pretense that nothing would go wrong.

A Japanese power company built a nuclear reactor on a known geological fault and their safety inspectors crossed their fingers as well.

I agree with Leonard Pitts. We’re often foolish children, crossing our fingers and retreating to the ‘knowledge’ that a thing can’t happen because, well, “It just can’t.”

When authorities tell us we’re being reckless, we cry out against “government interference” and vote the bastards out of office. Then, when finger crossing doesn’t shield us from disaster, we blame the government agency that “failed to do its job.”

But those aren’t big thoughts. Those are just some of the little emergencies we talk about to avoid thinking big thoughts.

Buckminster Fuller was a thinker of big thoughts. He called our planet Spaceship Earth because he was fully aware that seven billion of us are crammed on a tiny speck of dust circling an 11,000-degree fireball that flies at 252 times the speed of a bullet through a limitless vacuum. Bucky muttered, “Sometimes I think we’re alone (in the universe.) Sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the thought is staggering.”

Bucky spoke truly. Intelligent life exists beyond our little planet or it does not. And either way, the thought is staggering.

Will you take a few moments to be staggered by that thought or will you just turn up the volume of the television?

Another big thought is the thought of God. If Charlie Darwin was right, our species resulted from the biological equivalent of spontaneous combustion. But Aiden Wilson Tozer pondered the same big thought and muttered, “All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him.”

Darwin was right or Tozer was right. Either way, the thought is staggering.

Thousands of you are annoyed with me right now for bringing up these big thoughts.

But in my defense I offer one last question: Doesn’t this annoyance prove my opening paragraph?

Last week I wrote about me. This week, as promised, I wrote about you.

Perhaps next week I’ll write about business and it will be valuable enough that you’ll choose to overlook the fact that I occasionally seem to have no feel for the boundaries of polite society.

I probably ought to work on that.

Roy H. Williams

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