Follow The Twine [on DR Thursday]

[Day #2 of no image upload capacity so, for the melange image, see Kerri’s post or visit the Melange]

Follow the thick neon pink twine, winding through the park, and you’ll eventually come to a giant ball of string. I delighted in the thought that an enormous barn-sized Kitty, had recently been at play. Across the park giant flowers towered into the blue sky. Strolling beneath the stems and petals gave us an ant’s perspective.

Imagination. It’s working all of the time. And, sometimes it takes a giant ball of pink neon twine to make it visible. When we look forward to an event or dread a meeting, we are in full imagination. What else? When we desire a certain future or run fast from an opportunity, we are deep in our imagination. Kerri’s toes curl every time she drives under the train trestle while a train passes overhead: she imagines disaster.

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard in my life, from students or clients or friends, who’ve said, “I don’t have a good imagination.” The greatest figment of imagination is the notion that there are greater or lesser degrees of imagination. Sense making, personal story, idea generation, brainstorming, hypothesis checking, retirement planning…are all processes of imagination. We sense the world and then story it and the story always begins with the generation of an image. To be human is to be a wild. imaginer.

I’m privy these days to many thought models and process maps. I’ve spent the past 48 hours in a deep conceptual exercise. Emerging from my office at night I squint at Kerri and say, “My brain is tired.” The lovely paradox about the models and maps and conceptual paths is that they are not real. A map of the city is not the city. A model for product development is not product development, it is a map at best, a place to locate the imagination. The imagination uses itself to discover itself.

And, therein lives the paradox: imagination is as much about “discover” as it is about “invent.” We imagine our future so we can walk toward what we already see. As every artist knows, the canvas tells you where to go, the character tells the writer where the story turns. We discover ourselves in our imagination. Follow the pink twine far enough and you’ll eventually come to a giant ball of string.

read Kerri’s blog post about PINK NEON

watercolor fun: dog dreaming © 2010 david robinson

Chase Big Bubbles

photo-1I’m opening old journals. It’s hot and humid so the paper feels as if it is melting. I’m not sure why this morning I reached for them. They sit in several piles and bookcases around the house. I’ve not opened one since moving to Wisconsin almost two years ago.

I used to be an avid catcher-of-my-thoughts. I’d carry notebooks everywhere. I stuffed my pockets with index cards and extra pens. At the end of a day I’d read the days idea-harvest, empty scraps of paper with my nearly unreadable scribbles onto the table and translate them into THE MOTHER SHIP, a black and red hard cover journal. Some thought-scraps didn’t make the cut. Some of the scraps were undecipherable and no amount of brow wrinkling could resurrect the unreadable idea. Some of the scraps were revelations and, to me more precious than jewels.

At the time I was facilitating groups, creating models for change and models for growth and models for models…. I was coaching and teaching and reading everything from business books to eastern philosophy. I loved picking people’s brains and trading ideas with friends. I was seeking.

A moment ago I randomly flipped open the journal on the top of the pile. This is what I’d scribbled many years ago:

Joe just used “myth“ this way: We all live in this myth that, what we believe, is reality – that our beliefs are what really exist….”

Myth as falsehood. There are explanatory myths, too (for instance, the Bible). Myths serve to keep us in accord with the universe (a concept of our own creation). Balance and harmony are the purpose of myth. Joe doesn’t yet understand myth.

Myth is an action, it is not a lie.

I flipped to the previous page and read this:




Wholeness attracts wholeness. Live in it and not be of it (what?)

You have to be it to attract it.

On the facing page was this entry:

Conflict and oppositions. Always oppositions. How do I construct… a non-dual existence? A non-dual way of thinking? How do I live amidst to forces of opposition?

I can’t remember the context of these thoughts. I have no idea what I was working on or what was going on in my life at the time. I rarely dated my entries though are identifiable zones given the people I mention or the places I reference. From this vantage point it seems like reading the notes of someone else’s life.

After paging through the journals we walked to the farmer’s market on the lakefront. Amidst the vegetable stands, the baked goods, and crafts people, there was someone selling bubbles! Behind the bubble tent a man was demonstrating the product. He had two sticks with a looped rope and, after dipping the rope in a big bucket of suds, he slowly waved the contraption in the air, producing huge generous bubbles. Children gathered and squealed with delight as they chased the bubbles.

As I watched the bubble-chasers I realized that I had been like those children, squealing with pleasure as I chased my thought-bubbles, each bubble popping every time I got close enough to touch it. The thoughts themselves were of no consequence, not really. The important thing was the chase and the joy and the reaching for something that can never be captured. My journals live like Jackson Pollock’s paintings, a record of my movement, a map of my dance of delight in ideas.

Update Your Model

InfinityI laughed when I read this phrase on Skip’s Power Point presentation:

“All models are false. However, some are useful.” Alan Kay

I spent years of my life reading books built upon the thought models of thinkers, consultants, physicists, mathematicians, artists, business people and spiritual thinkers. None of the models was true. Many contradicted other models. Models are only useful if they help us make sense of our days on this planet.

Culture is a thought model. Travel to another culture and you’ll spend some time being disoriented because you will have entered a different model for sense making. For instance, some cultures/models place the accent on the individual and others place it on the group. I come from a culture that celebrates the individual and my world was rocked in a culture that celebrates the group; the model was so different that I could not sense make anything and fell head long into “not knowing.” While stumbling about unable to make sense of the world, I saw my own cultural model for what it is: a useful model – not truth.

Art, in most of Western culture, is considered important if it breaks or disturbs the model. In most Eastern cultures art is considered important if it supports the model.  Neither is truth. Neither is right. Both are useful for sense making if you understand the model.

Language is a model. It is very useful model, wouldn’t you agree? Wade Davis is sounding an important alarm that is going mostly unnoticed: we are losing languages faster than species are going extinct. Each language lost is more than a lost collection of words; a language lost is an entire world lost. It is a mythology lost. A language lost is a way of seeing and engaging with the mystery that is lost. What is useful and unknowable (un-see-able) to other languages/models is lost forever.

Religion is a model. Science creates and constantly revises its models. Religion could learn a thing or two from science (and vice versa). Maps are models. For a terrific book on mind models, get Charles Hampden-Turner’s, Maps Of The Mind.

A study of history is a study of models that served as sense makers for a time but collapsed under the weight of updates. For instance, no explorer ever sailed off the edge of the world despite the unassailable model of the day. It turns out that the sun does not rotate around the earth though many people were hushed and crushed for going against the model of their day. Newton showed us that space and time were fixed and Einstein showed us that space and time are not only fluid but connected.

We get into trouble when we confuse our models with truth. No model is true. No model is right. This applies especially to the models that we carry within us: the mind models that lead us to believe that, “I can’t do it…” are false. My favorite model that is mistaken for truth shows up like this: “I’m not creative.” That is a model that is both false and not very useful. What might you need to do to reconsider your model and accept an update?

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

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