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The Tinkered Mind
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June 21st, 2018
We do not install slides where we have staircases for obvious reasons. Slides are fantastic. . .
But only in one direction.
Every person past playground-age has experienced the difficult results of testing the hypothesis of whether it is possible to go UP a slide. Just like this kid.
Often our success is dependent on a good pair of sneakers and a strong grip.
Inevitably the stairs prove to be far more convenient.
These structures, and the images evoked by the way we interact with them – or rather the way we try to interact with them can provide some kinder understanding to some of our thoughtfully bad habits:
Our love of conclusions.
Our subsequent tendency to pigeonhole people. . .
Our discomfort with uncertainty.
Our fear of the unknown, the untried & the untested.
On a large enough scale, progress looks much like a staircase. Take this staircase for example.
This staircase, much like the playground staircase, is a ripe analogy.
Each plateau is a rest, a pause between efforts.
And effort here is defined as an interaction with that uncertain space. The space between each stair, between each little plateau. It is the space where failure might creep in. Where we might take a wrong turn. A space that takes energy to interact with in order to make something happen.
Indeed, even when trying to go UP a slide, we invoke the same strategy. With each teetering step, the child tries to grip the slide like a stair. We pause to take a breath, regain balance, and continue.
Each step is like a current conclusion. The last idea we had that panned out. And now we are in a different place, a better place, a higher place with a better perspective, a bigger context. The pattern of the staircase illuminates the solution for getting stuck.
This is often what happens though. We reach a conclusion and we stay there. We get stuck. We get lazy, and we forget what we probably look like from higher up on the staircase.
We form a specific idea about someone, and having reached that conclusion, our ideas about that person stay there, right on that stair and we may be guilty of shackling them with ROSE-COLORED-CUFFS. Totally ignorant of a better perspective, a bigger, more generous context.
Sometimes a person may surprise us. And we are vaulted up a few stairs.
Somehow, we always seem to forget the surprise and apply it to the future.
We forget that there are more stairs.
In every single aspect of our lives we are climbing a staircase, or usually, just standing in the middle of a staircase, our eyes trained down, locked on the current context. Too lazy to look up and continue the hard work.
Learning something new is climbing a staircase. And each little ‘ah ha!’ moment is the triumph over that uncertain space, when our new footing – a higher footing – is found.
Sometimes the next step is high above, and it’s as if we need to climb a slide to get up there.
Often times this is what we see, looking up at a slide from the bottom. We think, “well that’s not meant to go up.” So we stop. We stay where we are. We climb other stairs. Stairs that still look like stairs. The easy stuff. The low-hanging fruit.
Often times we’d benefit from a little more of that rebellious spirit we all had as kids, when we were willing to entertain ridiculous hypothesizes, testing them, just for the fuck of it, to test our own ability, to test our own ridiculousness.
But then again, if human progress is shaped like that sloping staircase, it shows that walking up the stairs quickly fails as a strategy. The same way low-hanging fruit is easy, but runs out quickly.
To get to the next step, it’s more like climbing a slide.
Enduring the uncertainty for longer.
Entertaining the untried, the untested, and gripping the way up any which way we can, inventing new strategies as we go, and doing our absolute best to do the impossible,
to slide up.
P.S. With practice, with the right idea, the right strategy, or the right technology, getting up that slide can be exhilharating, fast and mindblowing. Like this.