On the intemperance of ideas


Me, plowing the school’s garden this spring

…If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.

–Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Isaac Mcpherson, August 13, 1813

The above quote was taken from a letter in which Jefferson questioned England’s patent law, and wondered whether exclusive copywriting of ideas truly benefited all of society.  (He didn’t necessarily question patents on inventions, but bare ideas themselves:  ideas are by their very nature fleeting things.)

My reasons for bringing up this quote is simple.  We ALL have ideas and skills, and we should share them.  I taught a couple of garden-related classes this past weekend.  It was really quite fun, frankly, and even if I initially doubted my qualifications, I shouldn’t have:  enough ideas and questions were thrown around in those few hours to leave everyone with something new, with new skills shared.

SO:  if there’s someone around you who’s hoarding some skills you’d love to learn, then ask them to share.  If there’s some canning you’re afraid to do on your own, then host a canning party.  If there’s a new garden you would love to put in, then get people to come over and help you.  Life is so much richer if you can share what you know.

9 responses to “On the intemperance of ideas

  1. Would it appear I might be buttering you up if I told you that this is singlehandedly the best written garden(ing/ish) blog out there? You’re quite a gal.

  2. That is a tremendous idea. What a great way to promote a sense of community, and we can never have too much of that.

  3. I should have said tremendous suggestion. Oh, the crazy is always in play.

  4. Share, and you get friends, too! That’s always nice.

  5. Well, yes, they’re out there.

    I wonder if Jefferson knew why ideas seem to parallel-ly evolve? It’s like they come through the air.

  6. Well said (and quoted).

  7. Thank you, JCC.

    You too, Linda.

    Randi, butter away. Sometimes it is just good to hear it.

    Pamela, ideas, suggestions: perhaps it is all just crazy? Who knows.

    CC, that’s a fun benefit, isn’t it?

    Stef, he was a pretty smart guy, so I think he’d have been familiar with the idea. It IS interesting though how quickly some things go through the collective, whatever it is, ether.

    Thanks Thyhand.

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