Continuing from yesterday's mind sailing theme (Mind Sailing), one of the interesting things about the human brain lies in its patterning ability. To understand and remember things, we have to impose order, to create links. The more links there are, the easier to understand and to remember. Further, once we have created a pattern, we look for things to slot in that will reinforce that pattern. Things that don't fit in are ignored.
This can have odd results. Conspiracy theories are a case in point. I have known a good many conspiracy theorists. Once the theory - the pattern - is established, the holder goes in search of things that will support the theory, leading to some weird and wonderful results. Sometimes, just often enough to make me cautious of all rejection without checking, the theory proves to be correct in whole or part.
All societies have explorers, people who feel restless and want to learn or experience new things. The young warrior In Aboriginal Australia who, restless at the daily routine, goes travelling is an example.
European society in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries was full of explorers driven by insatiable curiosity to find new things, to extend the bounds. I am not talking just about those who actually travelled in physical terms. Behind them lay hundreds of thousands, millions, of people who shared the thirst for discovery in one way or another. They bought the books and magazines, they created or laboured in the new factories, they emigrated to find a better life. The results were not always good, but the end result was one of the transformational points in human history.
All human exploration begins in the mind, begins by wondering. That is where mind sailing comes in. We wonder, then we plan or just write.
A remarkable thing occurred on New Zealand's Canterbury Plains in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The population was very small, measured in the hundred's of thousands. Yet, somehow, that place became the centre of an intellectual endeavour that influences the world to this day.
Physicist Lord Rutherford of Nelson, to give him his official title, is an example, but he is not the only one. By nature, I am insatiably curious. I wonder why Canterbury should have been such an intellectual centre? Was it something in the water? Remember, pound for pound, Canterbury greatly out weighed Australia in the same period.
As with all these things, it was probably a combination of factors. looking at the people and the history of the period, there seems to have been a complicated interlock between intellectual freedom, curiosity, a desire to achieve and the availability of competitive channels that allowed people to advance.
The last was critical. We are dealing with a world where only a small proportion of people had access to university education, but those who did had relatively greater opportunities than exist in today's mass competitive world.