Very often we are told that the best way to solve any Problem is to concentrate and focus down and down into it, blanking out everything except that Problem. The Problem becomes a world all by itself. By delving into it deeper and deeper, you’re supposed to be able to pull out a solution that should, logically, solve the silly thing.
There are all kinds of books and videos and so on and so forth about this…all kinds of how-to-do-it and do-it-yourself info. It’s how you’re supposed to do things, and there are a lot of people who will tell you how.
Most of the time, this strategy works fine. Sometimes it does not.
The thing about this particular strategy is this: there will be times when you’ll expend a lot of head-achey, heart-breaky effort and you’ll wind up repeating and reiterating the same so-called solutions everyone else who ever focused down on a particular Problem found. These tried-and-true solutions may not be completely effective. They may just be “regular” stuff people always do when faced with such a problem.
The solutions you find using this strategy probably will work just about the same way as all the rest of the solutions that others have found. It’s possible that the old trite answers will fall apart in the same way they have always done as well.
In order to tell when the tried-and-true road is less than optimal, all you have to do is check the results that other people who tried it got. Perhaps the results they got are not satisfactory for you. “Good enough” may not be where you’re trying to go.
There are other ways of looking at a Problem that can produce fresh, wondrous, and often peculiar, things. There are other ways to play.
Now, think about this: What happens when you take a step back from the thing you’re seeing? Instead of having The Problem looming large and important, blocking out your entire view of the world, you might, instead, notice the area around the Problem.
Maybe if you pay better attention to how The Problem is affecting the larger spaces you see when you step back, you might notice some detail you missed when your focus was so laser-sharp. Maybe you’ll be able to notice another way to go next…something that might actually help mitigate the effects of the Problem better than a frontal, deep-drilling, logical approach.
Jumping into the fray before you’ve actually looked at the whole tangled mess as well as the space all around it often means you are ignoring some valuable information – like where all the exits are, for example, and whether there are more than one path that you might like to explore. Stepping back and checking the spaces all around The Problem can lead you into unfamiliar, exciting new directions…or maybe not. When you’re exploring new uncharted territory, there can be risks.
A RADICALLY DIFFERENT WAY OF UN-SEEING
In this YouTube TEDxMarthasVineyard talk “Step Back and Look Again” the self-styled artist-designer-activist Sebastian Errazuriz details how he has developed and uses the practice of stepping back and widening his focus so that a Problem is just a part of a bigger world rather than the only part of the world he can see. He uses this mindset to make his extraordinary art/design work.
Errazuriz is internationally acclaimed for standing different. His work always surprises and frequently enchants. It also often provokes controversy. It is “remarkable” — the subject of many remarks.
His explorations – from his artful public installations and political and social statements (some of which he talks about in the video) to his product designs that include experimental furniture that move and flow gracefully; fashion designs that include fanciful 3-D printed shoe-sculptures that recall past relationships as well as a fur coat made out of (gulp!) teddy bear skins and a dress made entirely out of zippers; and transportation options like a motorboat coffin – have been celebrated in over forty international exhibits or featured on magazine covers and in assorted books and catalogues, and critiqued or exclaimed over in thousands of articles and on television.
There is even a book about his work, THE JOURNEY OF SEBASTIAN ERRAZURIZ.
The man’s body of work asks you to “look again,” to see what is hidden in front of your eyes and to really notice how extraordinary this world can be.
Stepping back and taking another look apparently opens up the possibility that you will be more likely to see other ways of doing things that don’t involve getting caught up and trapped in a particular Problem.
Your visions and the things that grow out of them will probably be very different than what you’ve thought before. Perhaps you’ll discover some interesting lessons (also known as “mistakes”). Perhaps this way of Un-Seeing might lead to your finding uniquely effective solutions.
Step back….look. What do you see?
Here’s a poem:
I’m really liking where I’ve put my head…
I’m standing here, looking at this World of Dust,
Seeing it as a mirror,
A kaleidoscopic construct of shards and tiles
Made of fun-house mirror glass –
Each one reflecting an image
That is quintessentially human.
Every bit of it shines.
Every movement of the one standing in front of it
Is echoed in that mirror-mosaic that
Repeats a captured image endlessly…
Maybe into infinity.
If you stand too far away from the mirror that’s the World,
Then the thing is just a lovely bit of shiny…
Mildly interesting in a sort of kitschy, impersonal way,
But not particularly arresting because,
Let’s face it…f’r real,
The way us humans are built,
The most mind-catching thing
Is pretty much our own selves.
If we’re not in it, whatever it is doesn’t mean much.
Step close enough so
You can see yourself echoed in the glass
And the mirror-wall becomes
An animated interactive thing…
Interesting – fascinating , even.
But if you try to encompass it all,
Try to see the bigger picture
Of you and everybody else reflected in it,
Your monkey-mind goes boggling off,
Gagging on the overload.
The crazy bent-glass bits
Distort the images they capture
And send them back bent out of shape,
Warped into patterns
That merge and dance before your eyes.
You can’t make sense of what you see,
But your diligent little monkey-mind keeps trying.
Step in too close and focus
On one little bit and you
Miss out on the impact of
The beautiful play of movement
Across the patterns of that glassy wall.
But then it hit me:
The construct’s really just a wall, you know.
You don’t get to step inside it
Just by looking at it…
No matter how hard you try.
It’s a reflecting mirror-wall, silly,
All it does is bounce back images at you
And the images …
Well, they’re just little bits of
The you who is dancing there
In front of it.
It’s not SUPPOSED to enfold you.
(Who wants to get hugged by a wall?)
And then it occurred to me…
Somewhere in that wall,
There’s an entryway –
Some secret door or
Maybe a hidden panel
That you press.
Maybe you can’t see it if
You’re dazzled by the image-dance.
And maybe that is why
You have to reach out and
Touch that wall…
Run your hands along it,
Making fingerprint smears all over it,
So you can find that hidden door
The one that opens up into
The Mystery that
The world-wall surrounds….
by Netta Kanoho
Picture credit: Mirror Wall by Jason Meredith via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
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