I think we can all agree–more or less–that sometimes people on the whole can do some really stupid things. We can believe in things that make sense at the time, but with further knowledge, are clearly wrong. Case in point, thinking that the Earth is flat, or that the sun revolves around the Earth.
We can also believe things that don’t even make sense at the time, but which we believe anyway, mainly because it’s what’s commonly accepted. My illustration for this point comes from this blog post I read earlier this week. Click over to read it, but for you who are too lazy to even click a mouse button, allow me to explain.
Apparently. back in the 1700s, umbrellas were considered pretty darn uncool. When it rained outside, people would just get wet. And they liked it that way, I guess. The French decided getting wet was particularly pleasurable, so they started using these newfangled devices called umbrellas. The rest of the world resorted to its usual gut reaction to anything French, it seems. They decided it was too namby pamby.
And then, one brave man by the name of Jonas Hanway decided to buck against tradition. To ignore the names he’d be called. He was tired of getting wet, dagnabbit, and so he started using an umbrella in a country other than France. As expected, his peers called him a “mincing Frenchman” and suggested he move countries. He stuck with it, though–and today, Jonas made it so I can use an umbrella and not get made fun of in a similar fashion.
Thank you, Jonas. I salute you.
But reading this story made me think of more than just umbrellas, because there’s a core concept at the heart of this. I can’t help but consider all those poor slobs getting poured on while they were berating Jonas for his common sense approach to a universal problem. Did they like getting wet? This was England, after all. They had plenty of chances to get plenty soaked. But instead of listening to common sense, they went with popular opinion. The same popular opinion that has brought us the mullet, bell bottoms, skinny jeans, and disco.
Of course, it’s easy enough to look back on mistakes in the past and laugh at their mistakes. But I think this is likely a universal weakness in humanity. The people back then probably looked at people 250 years before and were amazed at the stupid things they did back then, and people 250 years from now will look at us and see the same trait.
Is there a way around this? I’m not sure. The whole point in thinking outside the box is that it’s really hard to see what the box is to begin with. But I suppose my point is that, the next time you decide to have a knee-jerk laugh at what someone chooses to do or not do, maybe it would be a good idea to take a look at the idea and see if it has any merit, after all.
Because maybe you’re the one standing in the rain, and the other guy’s using an umbrella.