Throughout history there have been ideas so game-changing, so epic and so grandiose that they were almost frightening, and the people who conceived of them were labelled dangerous for dreaming them up. While many of those individuals have since been redeemed and are no longer vilified, there have been dangerous thinkers throughout history whose alternative ways of thinking got them in a lot of trouble. Not everyone is as forgiving as this dangerously optimistic liberal arts college.
There are an equal number of lessons to be learned from both sides of the coin though, because dangerous thoughts – however benign or malignant they turn out to be – inspire us, teaching us that we’re not restricted to the status quo and that we can color outside of the lines. However, we must be aware that when we do, trouble may be lurking right around the corner.
Here are some of the more illuminating life lessons that students at an alternative liberal arts college can glean from these deified and demonized grandiose dreamers.
Don’t Underestimate Human Ingenuity
Nobody illustrates humanity’s capability for taking a good thing too far more than Julius Robert Oppenheimer, the developer of the atomic bomb. Upon witnessing what the harnessing of atomic energy was capable of, he famously quoted the Bhagavad Gita, “I have become death, destroyer of worlds.” The lesson to take away here is that no matter what you think the intended use for something is, human ingenuity will always try and take it a step further – occasionally too far. We see it every day now, as a new technology is developed and someone runs off with it, scheming ingenious ways to use it for personal gain or to inflict pain. Never underestimate the power of someone to interpret something in a novel way, because humans are nothing if not resourceful.
Stand For What You Believe In
No one exemplifies the dangerous thinker more beautifully than Nicolaus Copernicus does. Even though he faced staunch opposition from not only the church, but the public on his – pardon the pun – revolutionary idea that the earth actually revolved around the sun, and not the opposite, he stuck to his guns. Dodging cries of heresy, Satanism and all manner of threats, he stood firmly behind his scientific work and refused to be swayed by the public’s fear of change. The lesson here? Don’t let an engrained belief or widely-held assumption hold you back from daring to say something challenging or different - assumptions are made to be challenged.
Take A Chance
Sigmund Freud was a notoriously dangerous thinker, and his theories and ideas still ignite wild controversy today. While many of his theories have since been cast out of public favor due to their misogyny, lack of credibility or uselessness in light of modern theories, he took a chance on describing the wondrously complex and confusing thing that is the human brain. He wasn’t afraid to challenge the norms, and he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. He took chances on his theories, championing them without knowing for sure, and while many of them have since been proven bunk, much of what he did set the stage for modern psychology. Without taking a chance on what you believe, you’ll never get anywhere.
Being bold and thinking outside the box is necessary to make big changes in the world; the mold is made to be broken. So who knows, maybe everyone working towards a liberal arts degree needs a bit more danger in their lives.