“I think, therefore I am.” The words first attributed to Renée Descartes are often repeated when someone wants to re-assert that there must be some sort of intelligence somewhere in the universe. Not long ago someone told me that they find the sentence “inspirational.” I somewhat cynically challenged them to how it was inspirational, since if it was to pass that test, it would have had to push them to do something that they would not otherwise do. To my smug glee, they didn’t tell me about how Descartes re-lit, inside of them, a flame of hope in existential being which convinced them to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for some reason. Nor did they tell me of how it helped them reach their epiphany of realising their profound curiosity with the universe and the nature of life and how that, in turn, caused them to become a scientist. No, no, to my smug glee, they replied to my challenge “I don’t know… It just is, y’know?”
No. I don’t know.
Inspiration refers to something which sets into action another thing of great magnitude. That is why inspiration does not come in the form of logging on to Tumblr, viewing an image where the pixels have been arranged into the shape of letters to for words to form sentences which clearly are not true. Yet they still provoke the response of “OMG so true!” and maybe a “#deep” and a share on Facebook.
Many things are still inspired. 2000 years of mainstream European thought was inspired largely by Aristotle and the last few hundred years largely by Galileo. The first moon landing was inspired by the combination of thousands of years of curiosity and awe and then a real American desire to beat the Russians. Being inspired does not mean liking or enjoying something, it means that that thing has changed you.