One of the most interesting things in history is progress. We could call it development or also, simply, change. The interesting character consists in the fact that what people do together is rarely what they really meant when they started. It is somehow similar to the chaotic motion of the water molecules in the clouds, with the major difference that the results are never only three-dimensional but have many more dimensions.
The interactions between people are not the interactions between the balls on a billiard table. And this is because people are endowed with spirit, with interiority, so the external influence does not stop at the surface of the body but penetrates the fathomless depths of subjectivity, from where unexpected answers rise back to the surface, pushing individuals to decisions they would not have dreamed of in the recent past. Sometimes those answers seem foreign even to the mind that utters them.
The conflict between generations is part of this process. Very often, older people complain that the world in which they continue to live has changed so much that it is unrecognizable from when they were young. Even more, there is also a sort of gap between generations that sometimes makes it impossible for older people to understand the younger ones, as well as for younger people to understand the old ones.
Therefore, many of the ideas developed in the cultural creations of history get lost over time because people forget their meaning. We live in a network of unspoken self-evident assumptions that are shared only with people in our communities. It is something similar to a gesture or a special word used by a family that no one else from outside understands and which falls into oblivion after the family members die.
This is why the meaning of something is not picked up in the same way as it was expressed by the person who uttered the sentence that contained this meaning or created the meaning’s carrier, like a painting, for example. The clearest instance of such misunderstanding is dialogue. In a true dialogue, we witness dialectical arguing; that is, the fact that someone utters an idea or affirms something, and then someone else denies the truth of that affirmation.
In general, this is happening because the initial idea is expressed as a universal proposition, like the following one: all swans are white. Now, the interlocutor denies the truth of such a sentence, saying that it is not true that all the swans are white because he saw a few that were black.
Universal propositions taken as true are usually based on the imagination through the procedure of generalization since no one can know all the possible cases that such a sentence or proposition is covering. If you are more careful, you formulate your assertion only as a hypothesis rather than a thesis that demands general recognition.
However, what is important in this context is that we usually live within a network of beliefs that have the form of a network of universal propositions in our minds. And these beliefs, in the form of universal propositions, have the same power as a particular proposition uttered based on experience and observation: they are self-evident and as evident as an observation. This is what is called a prejudice. Suppose I do not enter into a dialogue with someone else about a certain idea of mine. In that case, I can easily believe that what I think by this idea is the truth itself. And, as with observation, I will act accordingly. With respect to observation, if I see that there is a stone on a path, I will bypass it: it is obvious to me that I must do this if I want to follow the path. Similarly, once I nourish a belief based on a view that all the things referred to by that belief behave in a certain way, I will act in continuity with that belief. For me, all the possible things expressed by my belief share the same properties. For example, once someone transforms into a misogynist, he will think that all women, with no exception, are bad or inferior. Although he has not met all women to check if they all share those features, he is convinced of his idea and behaves and lives accordingly, just like the person who saw the stone on the path and avoids it based on that observation.
We cherish a lot of such beliefs, most of which we are not even aware of. This is why different people receive ideas circulating in the social realm differently: their prejudices – that form the receiving medium of those ideas – are different. As a consequence, ideas echo differently in different minds.
But the echo does not always translate into bodily behavior. Usually, first, it begets mental answers, other ideas ‘inspired’ by what has been heard or read. And those ‘inspired’ thoughts can be light-years away from the initial idea so that their origin is not even recognizable in that idea. And this happens because the latter was integrated into the unbounded subjective network of prejudices having the universal logical form in the mind of the person who hears it. Such integration means that this idea highlights a new feature of the things about which the person has already built a prejudice in his mind, and therefore, it can be easily accepted as an additional argument for that prejudice.
This is also the source of ‘creativity.’ And in this respect, all of us are creative. All of us misunderstand, more or less, the messages and ideas circulating around us. And we misunderstand them necessarily because we must relate them to our network of beliefs, which are different from the beliefs of the person who launched those ideas into the social space.
We carry inside of us an endless amount of unconscious representations, thoughts, emotions, and ideas. Although they are a multitude, they unite miraculously, and our conscious mind encounters them as ‘mood.’ This is why ideas, places, or humans can produce in us ‘bad moods:’ they conflict with some unconscious content.
Our consciousness is a space where we integrate new subjective content into the existing mind framework, changing it slowly and gradually. We build, over time, a personal experience that transforms into a universal view of the world; that is to say, it is somehow detached from the individual level. The tree that we see here and now or have seen in the past becomes, in such a process, an exponent of the class of all the similar trees. And the same happens with each particular experience that we have: it slips slowly into something much vaster. This is why we are so tempted to say that the world itself, the world in general, with all its contents, has a certain character when something happens only to us.
Our mind framework is not given once and for all; it also changes, although very slowly. Something must be quite ‘shocking’ to produce conscious changes in our minds. How the endless orchestra of those unconscious representations reacts to the new information is the form of our personal creativity. And it is always new and unpredictable. This is why, among others, Jesus said you cannot predict where the wind blows to, and how the human spirit changes. Because of how the individual mind interacts with other minds within the medium of these highly vibrating and molding unconscious representations, the results of an action that people initiate together are unpredictable. Although perhaps, at first sight, the immediate effects are predictable, the result in the long haul remains completely unknown.