Oh you don’t want to go to college […]. You want to go to collage […] Collage is an institute of education where all the rules can be thrown into the air, and size and space and time and foreground and background all become relative, and because of these skills everything you think you know gets made into something new and strange.*
To act on behalf of the future requires a deep sense of responsibility and selflessness.**
Sometimes the gift we want to bring, the contribution we hope to make, the future we want to bring can often only form when we let go of what has become the familiar and the welcomed for us.
Nan Shepherd catches my attention because of her use of the word revenant for a guide in the Cairngorms – I’d begun watching Leonardo de Caprio’s movie of the same name a few nights ago:
we walked in a cloud so thick that when the man who was leading us went ahead so much as an arm’s length, he vanished, except for his whistle. […] And alone in that whiteness, while our revenant came and went, we climbed an endless way.^
Here’s a description for how moving into the unfamiliar can be disorientating and yet wonderful and magical. It feels that Maria Popova adds more detail when describing Albert Einstein’s “combinatory play”:
Part of Einstein’s genius […] was his willingness to leap beyond the limits of his particular mathematical problem and into a field of possibilities, which he explored through improvisational experimentation — gedankenexperiments, or thought experiments. Einstein himself, who believed his best ideas came to him during his violin breaks, called his ideation process “combinatory play” — a wilderness of associations reaching across boundaries of various theories and fields of thought, not as deliberate problem-solving but as unforced mental meanderings.
This desire to explore without intent is also found in some words from Shepherd ahead of her white cloud experience:
Yet often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone our merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with not intention but to be with him.^
When we are prepared to explore the spaces between people and ideas where the futures are found, letting go of the firm things in our lives will be necessary, sometimes for ever, making it possible to be open to whatever wants to appear.
We may also become invisible to others who do not understand or want to follow or struggle to follow. Just something to be aware of.
Of course, genius is encountered in moving back and forth, but that feels like another blog.
(*The character Daniel Gluck, from Ali Smith’s Autumn.)
(**From Joseph Jaworski’s Source.)
(^From Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain.)
(^^From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Jazz of Physics.)