Lineal Thinking Versus Conceptual Thought
Today my granddaughter was a robot. Yesterday she was the gingerbread man. She has been a dinosaur, a seahorse, and even a purple baby sea turtle. She is quite good at assuming these roles, not because she is a tremendous actress, but because today she was a robot, yesterday she was the gingerbread man, and she has also been a dinosaur, a seahorse, and a purple baby sea turtle. She is only three and hasn’t had the concept that she can be whatever she wants to be educated out of her.
If she is normal, she will in the next few decades learn that she really isn’t a robot, a gingerbread man, a dinosaur, a seahorse, or purple baby sea turtle, as well as things like gravity affects only physical objects, that trees and purple elephants cannot fly, and other things that simply are not true! If she is normal, she will learn to think lineally rather than conceptually, and that is really unfortunate.
Lineal thinking is used to resolve problems and relate things that are similar. Conceptual thinking relates physical laws and possibility to better understand why we have a problem to resolve and that those dynamics apply to anything regardless of similarity. Lineal thinking people confine themselves to finite matters. Conceptual thinking people know no such bounds, but might concede that something that is possible may not be practical.
People of both mindsets can be successful. People of both mindsets can be failures. Neither mindset is inherently right or wrong. One is common, and one is uncommon. However, the conceptual thinking person must either find another conceptual thinking person to have creative dialog, or rein in the conceptual thoughts to appear normal among lineal thinking people. Otherwise they may appear eccentric like the artist, wacky like the mad scientist, or haughty like the entrepreneur.
The other day I wore my t-shirt that says "There are 10 kinds of people: those who understand binary and those who don’t." Someone came up to me and told me his friend has a similar shirt that says "There are three kinds of people: those who understand math and those who don’t." The similarity is a math comment on a t-shirt. The huge difference between the two, though, is his friend’s shirt has a funny saying on it, whereas mine has a profound statement on it. "10" in binary is "2" in base ten numbers, and, if you don’t believe me, you can ask one of those conceptual thinking people who use only "0" and "1" to make your computer do everything it does. In that guy’s lineal thinking mind, though, my shirt and his friend’s shirt both just have silly math statements on them.
I had mentioned gravity earlier, and that we are taught that it affects physical objects. Gravity, though, is a universal law, and, as such, it affects everything in the universe. It affects economies, thoughts and ideas, and everything you can possibly think of that is in the universe. I was listening to a talk show host interviewing an economist. The economist was talking about the stock market, and how at some point many years ago about 10 percent of the people had money in this elite investment. Today more than 50 percent of the people have money in the stock market, so now 50 percent of the people are elite in their investing. My goodness, doesn’t the guy realize that once gravity pulled that many people into stock market investments, stock market investing became common? There is no way for 50 percent of the people to be elite, lest "elite" simply now means "common."
There is a physical phenomenon called the quantum leap through which something that is here suddenly is there without movement being detected. So how can something that phenomenal be relative to our lives? How about growing a garden, which can be beneficial to both diet and budget without seeming to move! A garden, like the quantum leap, is exponential. It’s just a concept.
So, what about trees and purple elephants flying? I need do nothing more than to point out the Spruce Goose, which was the brainchild of the famous conceptual thinker, Howard Hughes, to demonstrate flying trees. The elephants, though, I will need you to envision, for otherwise I will have PETA all over my case.
It may actually be easier to make a dead purple elephant fly than a live one. I believe a live one would likely become agitated during the painting process. Once you have the elephant painted purple, all you need is a large catapult. Of course, if you don’t have a really large parachute to help with the landing, it not only would be easier to make a dead purple elephant fly, it would also be more humane.
If you are a lineal thinking person, and you grasped a bit of this, and think conceptual thought is like thinking outside the box, you are still thinking lineally. You were told there was a box and you believed it. The conceptual thinker knows there never was a box to limit your thoughts anywhere but in your mind.
Some other things I've written about: