Capture the Spirit of Ideas

Every idea has a spirit.

By “spirit”, I mean “a capacity to be put to use independently of the opinions we form about its truth value.”

We often approach self-help philosophy as if it’s necessary for us to meet some sort of belief requirement as a precondition for action.

So if X is an idea, we tend to think “I must first believe that X is true before I have permission to make practical use of us.”

As an alternative, we can make use of Stanislavki’s “Magic If.” Instead of saying “this is what I know to be true,” we can say “how would think, feel, and act if such and such were true?”

Before you dismiss a creative concept or an interesting perspective merely because it can’t be proven, ask yourself “if this idea were an invisible ally sent to help me create the results that matter most to me, how can I use it in a way that fulfills this intention without requiring myself to make any dogmatic commitments?”

To apply Marcus Borg’s theory of scriptural interpretation to self-help philosophy, we can say “you don’t need to take ideas literally in order to take them seriously.”

You don’t have to accept an idea as true in order to capture the spirit of the idea. Use your imagination to see how you can get something practical out every conceptual tool you learn. Being creative is a necessary part of being rational.