Creativity / Incompleteness / Thoughts / Ways

Turning the Other Way

File:Durchgang in Rheingoenheim.JPG

There are places that are hidden from you, not by being concealed physically, but by your own habits. You only take certain ways, turn around certain corners, look into certain directions, and when you are in your familiar environment, there might be some perfectly accessible places only a few steps away of whose existence you don’t have the slightest idea. Maybe there is a street, a square, a park just around one or two corners, and you have never been there in all those years and you don’t know that place is there.

A stranger coming to your area might soon know it better than you because he does not have any habits blocking his views and ways. And even if he does not find every place immediately, every place nearby retains the same likelihood for him of finding it. If you live in the area for a long time, on the other hand, you develop systematic blind spots.

The same phenomenon can be encountered in the area of thinking. New ideas often come from outsiders and newcomers. Children, the ultimate newcomers to this world, often surprise us with their unexpected views. Later in life, and especially in fields of expertise, we become less flexible and develop blind spots. Sometimes, after problems have been solved and solutions turn out to be very simple, people might think: “why didn’t we see this earlier?” This is the blindness of experts, often also institutionalized as organizational blindness.

In the area where you live, you may go for a walk and deliberately turn into the streets and alleys you have never taken before. You may deliberately look at things to search for things you are overlooking all the time. Suddenly, you see shops, balconies, trees, entrances that you have never consciously perceived before.

In your thoughts, you can likewise train to consciously see the patterns of thought, the unexpressed premises. It takes some training but then you will start to see possibilities you might not have seen before. Many will turn out to be blind alleys, but you might hit upon completely new ideas. To a great extent, creativity is the art of taking different turns. You might get lost or enter dangerous areas, but it is worth taking the risk.

(The picture is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Durchgang_in_Rheingoenheim.JPG.)

23 thoughts on “Turning the Other Way

  1. A thought provoking piece Nannus. Not so long ago construction started on a block I see about once a week. A building was torn down to make room for something else. For the life of me, I could not remember what stood there before! Was it hidden by a fence? Was it a house?A business? Absolutely no clue until I dug a little to figure it out. The “ruts”, the blind spots, in our minds are truly perplexing at times.

  2. Yes, this is just how I feel. I have so many habits that are no longer serving me or even relevant. So many rules developed in response to situations long ago. I have made it a goal to “clean out” these things as soon as I notice them. Progress is sometimes slow but I really appreciate the space freed up when it happens. Thanks for this post. Said a lot to me.

    • The aspect that rules develop “in response to situations long ago” is important. This happens to individuals and to cultures whose traitions might contain parts that have no function again, and should be called into question.
      My mother told a story about this: a woman teaches her daughter a certain recipe, of how to cook a certain piece of meat: “…you rub it with this spice, with salt etc. … and then you cut off this piece and put both pieces into the roasting tray, and put it into the oven.” “But why do you cut off that piece?”, asks the daughter. “Hm, I don’t know. I always did it that way. I learnt it from my mother. Lets go to my mother and ask her”. So they visit the grandmother and ask her. The grandmother says: “Hm, I don’t really know. I allways cut the piece in the end and put it crosswise besides the other one. My mother taught me to do it that way. Its part of the recipe. Let’s go and visit her and ask her.” So they go to the great-grandmother and ask. “Ah, well”, the great-grandmother says, “when I was young, I did not have a large frying-tray. I only had a small pot and it did not fit inside any other way.”

        • For me, it was a good exercise to be in contact with Africans. When you deal with people from another culture, you observe a lot of things they find normal that are strange, and you start seeing things in your own culture that go without saying and you normally don’t even “see that there is a question” and suddenly you notice it could be completely different and your own culture is quite strange. Sometimes there are funny misunderstandings (well, funny in hindsight) because both sides take different things for granted and don’t know it (initially).

  3. This happens a lot to me. Just a few days ago while taking a walk on a route I use daily I saw this four storey building that they are doing final finishes on and i can’t for the life of me remember ever seeing any construction work going on

  4. Great post!

    This is why I love having people visit from out of town. I take them to all the usual places and watch as they ponder the plant life, the animals, etc. It really gives me a new perspective and helps me appreciate the desert all over again.

    You have inspired me to write a post about blind spots in reference to writing. Coming soon….Thanks!

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  6. It is interesting that the “blind alleys”, have led me to the most creative or intellectual discoveries ever. I happen to find a new flower species, (a weed can grow in the crack of a pavement), in many cases I find injured animals that I end up rescuing.

    • I think it is indeed interesting and can be fruitful to deliberately leave the beaten tracks, both in a literal and in a metaphorical sense. And if you find nothing you have at least learnt that nothing interesting is there.
      Finding a plant species that you have not seen before in your area must be exciting. Is it just plants that you have never seen before, although it is known they exist on the island? Do you find newly introduced species that did not exist on the island before (and are there problems with invasive species)? Is it still possible to find something that is new to science?

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