Disclaimer: if you haven’t yet read The KLF: Chaos Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds, I encourage you to do so before reading this post. It’s a hell of a read.
In The KLF: Chaos, Magic, and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds, Higgs explores ideas that are as chaotic as the band he’s biographing. He discusses religion, aesthetics, art, and philosophy, then uses these concepts to paint a magical picture of his subject.
In his version of the story, The KLF are the butterfly wings that cause a hurricane—the hurricane of the 2008 economic crash.
This, of course, is ridiculous. And Higgs says as much.
Higgs explains that he can create this narrative—that the KLF caused the recession of 2008—because he’s using a type of thinking that allows him to do so. You see, he’s looking at the KLF through Allan Moore’s concept of the Ideaspace. This allows Higgs to draw connections where, perhaps, there are none. For example: connecting the burning of a million pounds to the biggest economic crash in recent history. But if you put on a different pair of glasses—one this is not quite so magical—the story changes dramatically.
This is the lesson Higgs is trying to teach us. And, if applied correctly, can change how a person approaches communication.
If you are an active participant in the marketplace of ideas (e.g. a journalist, academic, filmmaker, etc.), you’ve probably had to write some of those ideas down. The challenge with writing—or any kind of communication, really—is that sometimes the ideas get stuck in the doorway. They all try to come out at once, but they obviously can’t all fit.
This is when we start to make choices. Not all our ideas will fit neatly into a clear line of thought, so we string them together the best we can. These choices, whether made consciously or not, are warped by the models we use to experience the world. These models are worn by the individual like a pair of sunglasses, influencing everything she sees.
In this book, John Higgs challenges us to think about our glasses. What do they see? What do they choose not to see? What would happen we swapped our lenses for something different?
Higgs’ story of the KLF is not just about a band who burned a million pounds; it’s a story about how we build stories. Higgs claims that the KLF caused the 2008 financial crises because the model he’s wearing a pair of glasses that allows him to do so. Swap glasses, you see different things, and find a different story.
Our glasses inform how we talk about the world. Maybe we should try a new pair once in a while. You never know what we might see.