Memes live in the mind like plants in a garden. Be a careful steward of what’s growing in yours.
Mind Memetics & The Garden Concept
Your mind is a garden, where memes are the seeds.
Some seeds grow rapidly, and some reach maturity quicker than others. Some grow slowly, and take years to bloom.
Bigger ‘plants’ are made of multiple memes that fuse together to create a large structure, like ivy. For example, your views on human behavior will be made up of seeds across psychology, biology, neuroscience, intuition, and so on.
Watering The Garden
Seeds – memes – grow through repetition. When a meme is repeated through constant attention, that concept grows in your mind. Just as a seed does through consistent watering.
Some ideas are like hardy plants – they can survive for years without constant watering. Others need daily attention.
You can ‘over-water’ an idea. Just as too much water will kill a plant, so too can over-eager repetition sour you on an idea. Think of a song you liked at first, but stopped enjoying when it was being played everywhere.
Think about the type of ideas you’re repeating, and how often you do so. Foreign languages, for example, need a certain frequency of attention or you forget them. Riding a bike quickly becomes unforgettable. You don’t need to recite your ABCs every day to remember them immediately when you’re 80, but you might want to practice them backwards if you have a tendency to drink and drive.
How your mind works, and how you learn, is like a soil type. Some learn visually, some learn through physical interaction, others learn best from books.
Each soil type will create conditions for different ideas to thrive. Low IQ could be considered particularly difficult soil, but that doesn’t mean that plants won’t grow. It just means that certain types of ideas will be mastered more easily than others.
Those inclined to think with numbers will grasp mathematical concepts with ease, but might struggle with language. Those with a gift for abstract thought might be able to ‘zoom out’ and look at the whole garden at once, making connections.
Pay attention to how you learn, and find ideas that suit that mode of learning. Often, people who see themselves as “dumb” or “not a numbers person” or “[x] challenged” are simply picking the wrong approach.
Invasive Species, Weeds, And Resources
You have limited resources in your mental garden. There’s only so much brainpower, energy, and attention. Institutions know this, and are in a war for your mental resources.
Advertising is an assault on your garden. It brings in invasive species, like jingles, slogans, logos, and emotions, attempting to take over. The perfect consumer is one whose entire mental garden is devoted to growing other people’s plants.
A garden left untended becomes overrun with weeds. If you’re not reading, thinking, and engaging with the world, you’re leaving the mind to rot. What you get is a haphazard collection of plants, in poor health, with weeds everywhere. Weeds are bits and pieces of information – memes – that have been casually collected over time.
A mind full of weeds is a distracted mind. It becomes harder to plant seeds, and form original thoughts. The gardener must devote his time to battling the weeds – developing mindfulness – before anything new can prosper. Because those weeds will sap the resources from any new seeds.
Reading and meditation are weed-killers.
Diverse Gardens, Cross-Pollination, And Collections Of Beauty
There are two ‘ideal structures’ for a mind garden, that I can tell. But they’re distinctly different.
- A diverse garden: full of different mental models, this is the sign of a polymath. Multiple areas are developed with different types of plants, and free to interact with one another.
- A carefully crafted garden: bountiful and beautiful, but filled mostly with one type of plant. This is deep expertise and mastery – the sign of an expert and leader in the field.
These are Platonic ideals – most people, with focused attention, will build something that looks like a hybrid. Domain expertise, with nice collections of plants from other areas.
Diverse gardens allow for cross-pollination. If you’re widely read and widely experienced, you have all types of plants in your mind garden, and they’re free to interact. Over time, entirely new plants form. Cross-pollination of memes creates interesting links between different domains. This is how people can find entirely new ideas, that seem obvious in retrospect. The ideas were obvious, but nobody’s garden had given the plants a chance to pollinate one another.
Carefully-crafted gardens are monocultures, or close to it. They’re filled with one type of plant, but they have a bigger and stronger collection of those plants than almost anyone. Here, the gardener takes a field to new heights, pushing the boundaries in their domain.
What’s in your mind can quickly be disseminated to the minds of others. Just as we can clone a plant species, a meme can be transmitted to the mind of another. Just tell them about it. The only limit is the soil type.
Become A Gardener
Learning helps not just yourself, but the world. Experts and innovators push forward humanity as a whole. They put the time into tending their gardens, and then release the new plants as memes to the world. Anybody can clone the new plants.
You don’t have to innovate in a field to help others through your gardening. Make an idea easier to understand, and you’ve done everyone a service. The quicker a meme grows, and with fewer resources, the easier it is for people to benefit while focusing their limited resources on growing other plants.
Ignore the mind, neglect learning, and your garden becomes overrun with weeds and invasive species. It takes time and focused effort to build a beautiful garden. You’re not limited by your physical ability, or mental agility, or anything else. Willpower is unlimited. A dedicated gardener who hustles can make almost anything grow in almost any type of soil. And then he can share his creations with the world.