In the mid 1980s, Bill Moyers, the former White House Press Secretary, conducted half hour interviews with thinkers and specialists of various disciplines. The series was entitled A World of Ideas and ran on PBS.

Interviewees shared thoughts and perceptions specific to their specialities in ways that made it easy for the average person to relate to complicated fields of knowledge, and in manners that illustrated how powerful ideas have cross cutting applications.

Powerful ideas are not only relevant to specific fields of knowledge. Because of their compelling philosophical underpinnings and deeply embedded logic, powerful ideas transcend sectoral boundaries and are of use in multiple settings and contexts.

Over the years, I have come to think not only of ideas but also of the utility of ideas. How a powerful idea that I have come to know can help me better understand the world, myself and those around me. And how this improved understanding can make my existence in this life more effective, to me and to others.

Some ideas and concepts I learned of more than 30 years ago are still strongly with me. Maslow's concept of self actualization and Naisbitt's high tech/high touch formula are amongst these.

I do not know who first said that one’s freedom ends where the freedom of another starts, but I first heard this phrase in high school in the 1970s in Jordan, in an Arabic literature class. The idea of how different individuals and cultures manage boundaries and relate to the space around them (all kinds of space - physical, political, economic, intellectual, cultural, etc.) is a powerful one. I leaned on this idea in a previous posting on this scribe entitled Why Immigration, As We Have Come To Know It, No Longer Works.

Perhaps the most powerful idea I have learned of so far is the way Joseph Campbell viewed religions. Campbell was one of Moyers’ interviewees and that series was entitled The Power of Myth. Campbell’s rendition of religions sharing common powerful ideas led him to the conclusion that there is basically one religion explained to different peoples using different metaphors and parables.

I think it was Czesław Miłosz who said that a powerful idea is stronger than all the machinations of the state. It is also stronger than all the machinations of the self. We do not always welcome the encounter of powerful ideas, especially when they challenge our assumptions about reality.

But if reality is constantly changing, aren’t we supposed to utilize powerful ideas to adjust our assumptions about reality, so we do not crash into a wall?