Great Ideas Come When The World Needs Them

William Lyons Phelps made a comment that we should have print and put someplace where we can regularly be reminded of it.

He said: “Great ideas come when the world needs them. They surround the world’s ignorance and press for admission.”

We tend to forget that great truth: “Great ideas come when the world needs them.” They always have… and I guess they always will. That’s what the purveyors of gloom and disaster tend to forget. They tend to be set in concrete and overlook completely the fact that, for every problem, no matter how threatening, there’s a solution. They’re aware of the problem but discount the evidence of history that somebody’s going to come up with the right answer before everything goes down the tubes.

They extrapolate from current trend and, with a little multiplication, they can prove that in ten years the seas will be dead and there’ll be no more oxygen and everything else on earth will perish. It’s like seeing an ant in your kitchen on Monday… two on Tuesday… and four on Thursday. That means that in less than thirty days the kitchen and the entire house will be chocked with four-billion, seven-hundred and fifty million… But if we see a dozen ants, we do something about it. We call the exterminator or find the solution ourselves.

We don’t begin… we can’t begin to think creatively about the solution to a problem before the problem exists.

The powers of the human mind are considered to be infinite according to a study made at the University of California at Los Angeles. If that’s true, and I think it is, then we have an infinite capacity to solve problems as they arise. But it’s interesting how each new threat throws so many of us into paroxysms of panic at the thought that we are at last to be overwhelmed.

That’s why we should remind ourselves from time to time of that great educator and literary critic, William Lyons Phelps: “Great ideas come when the world needs them.” They surround the world’s ignorance and press for admission.”

It’s always been an opinion of mine that not only great ideas… but great human beings as well come when the world needs them.

That’s been the lesson of history, too. And so, as our problems multiply with the ever-accelerating pace of modern life on this planet, we’ll see remarkable men and women emerging from the multitudes with the ideas and leadership needed to move in all up to a new level. This isn’t a Pollyanna attitude; it’s simply the lesson of history. We would not have made it this far had it not been true.

In the meantime, it will help a great deal if more of us develop an attitude of expectancy and hope for the future (instead of one of despair) if we realize that the ideas we need are surrounding our earth — as Teilhard de Chardin tried to tell us — and pressing for admission. Incidentally, the same is true concerning our own individual problems, too.

The ideas we need to successfully solve our problems are there and, with the right attitude, we can find them.

Macneile Dixon has written: “Make human life as trivial as you please. There remains the simple, positive, undeniable fact that we are taking part in cosmic affairs, of a magnitude beyond all imagination to compass or language to express. All finite things have their roots in the infinite and, if you wish to understand life at all, you cannot tear it out of its context.”

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