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Turning Great Ideas into Dogma – an EED Classic
July 4, 2022
In a time of destruction, create something.
-Maxine Hong Kingston, Author

Twenty years ago, nearly to the day, Exchange Press co-founder Roger Neugebauer shared this in ExchangeEveryDay:

One of my favorite authors, Seattle's own Tom Robbins, offers this insight on ideas in his bestseller, Still Life with Woodpecker...

"...ideas are definitely unstable, they not only can be misused, they invite misuse--and the better the idea the more volatile it is. That's because only the better ideas turn into dogma, and it is this process whereby a fresh, stimulating, humanly helpful idea is changed into robot dogma that is deadly...The problem starts at the secondary level, not with the originator or developer of the idea but with the people who are attracted by it, who cling to it until their last nail breaks, and who invariably lack the overview, flexibility, imagination, and, most importantly, sense of humor, to maintain it in the spirit in which it was hatched. Ideas are made by masters, dogma by disciples, and the Buddha is always killed on the road."

In From Teaching to ThinkingMargie Carter and Ann Pelo reflect on a rhetorical question, “What kind of world do we want to live in? A community characterized by the lively exchange of ideas, in which many languages are spoken: the languages of art, science, and literature; ecology and justice; logic, imagination, and action. A society in which the expressions of heart, mind, and spirit are equally prized as necessary components of a fully engaged human life. A community distinguished by intentional action, by deliberate and thoughtful efforts, by purposefulness and attentiveness."

The Reimagining Our Work (ROW) Initiative embodies this kind of community, aiming to keep ideas malleable rather than unstable, not to let ideas pass into dogma but to keep them in play through lively exchange and reflection. Learn more about ROW.

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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Kirsten Haugen · July 05, 2022
Eugene, OR, United States

Thanks, Robert! Roger's quote from Tom Robbins gave me a different angle on Ann & Margie's book. My 89-year-old dad says, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water," and I find it fun and inspiring to have a conversation with our past thinking - lots of gems and occasional cringe-worthy ideas. So you'll start to see these 'Exchange Classics' from time to time. I always welcome ideas and feedback.

ROBERT BENOWITZ · July 04, 2022
CARTERSVILLE, Georgia, United States

One of your best ever...so appropriate for today and for these times, and to never give in to dogma.

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