There is plenty of evidence to suggest your routine is delivering results; but today I’m going to tell you how it’s not. Diversity, spontaneity, and surprise are often my best tools. They give me access to new experiences, and new experiences change old perceptions.
Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. For example, I’d say the refresh button is the biggest joke the Internet has ever played on us. We hit “refresh” and expect something different, then we sit there and stare at the same box, and think the same thoughts with different pictures attached. You want to change your thinking? Change your environment, move your body, surprise yourself.
My brother just finished a permaculture design intensive. Permaculture is a design science based in ecology. *Special nod here to Jonah and my mother, Joan, who are responsible for an incredible garden whose fruits (and vegetables) we enjoy throughout the warmer seasons in Connecticut. Anyway, he was telling me recently about a principle he works with when designing living environments called edge.
In nature, the edge is a place where two environments meet and bring forth an abundance of activity and biodiversity. Consider the edge of a pond or a lake. That’s where frogs live, fish hide, birds nest, plants grow--and it’s also where we can access the new environment.
In an office, the doorways we linger in between workspaces where seemingly disparate climates meet foster great creativity. In a city, it’s often artists who cultivate the edges: New York’s Lower East Side, Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. Some countries have edges fraught with tension and conflict, while others are rich with collaboration. The value here is that finding those edges can give us access to new ways of seeing things.
The horizon is also an edge. Looking out to it and beyond it gave me access to one of the most inspiring and beautiful trips of my life. It started with a documentary called Heima. I had been a big fan of Sigur Ros, because duh, and when there was a screening of this film of their tour of their home country of Iceland playing at my college, I naturally went.
It was clear from the dramatic, sweeping, imagery in the film that their music must have come from the same place. I boarded a plane for Iceland four days later. As a designer I am highly influenced by natural elements--while alone with the road, I was able to find inspiration in the tones of earth. Iceland is full of edges, on so many scales. And the diversity and vibrancy of the place inspired me deeply.
Iceland is quite small in population yet vast in landscape. Some parts felt like Mars where others where blindingly green. The Vikings were smart to protect this special place. This is a place where visitors can get a taste of all the seasons. A hot summer’s day walk over an icy glacier is easily achieved not too far out of Reykjavik. You can’t go wrong with a weekend visit any time of year. I’d recommend summer, though, as you get 24 hours of sunlight.
Out there, beyond the horizon, in a place that could have been Mars, I found myself again. Edward Albee, a playwright known for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? wrote in The Zoo Story, “Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.” Maybe you need to get out there, past your edge, to find your way back to your creativity and expression.
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