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Meandering, Myths, Legends, and Truth
Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, power to retell it, to rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.
One of the challenges of walking off the beaten path is that we will encounter and have to entertain new thoughts. We are brought up on a diet of objective facts and subjective truths that define the workplace. However, many of the objective facts we are fed have a half-life, eroded as they are by science. Truths are the same - though some subjective truths are more enduring than objective facts and become the platforms on which our beliefs and values are built.
Meandering, then, requires self-confidence (or abject foolishness). I have spent decades assembling facts; initially, I think from a lack of confidence in my own ideas in order that, if questioned, I could hurl references and evidence by the ballista load. Later though, just for the fascination of collecting and connecting them. Reading has always given me a mental landscape, from hills of anthropology, through the dark woods of psychology and the open sea of fiction.
The challenge is that it makes me, at best, a creative commentator on other people’s work. I have no problem with that - we are short of creative and constructive commentary, inclined as we are in a competitive world to pull down others’ work and promote our own.
The thought that sits with me is that if I want to move beyond painting and decorating other people’s ideas, in order to think new thoughts, I will have to let go of the security blanket I have. Not lose it; just put it in storage because “it’s not wanted on voyage.”
If the matter is one that can be settled by observation, make the observation yourself. Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men, by the simple device of asking Mrs. Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted. He did not do so because he thought he knew. Thinking that you know when in fact you don’t is a fatal mistake, to which we are all prone.
I believe myself that hedgehogs eat black beetles, because I have been told that they do; but if I were writing a book on the habits of hedgehogs, I should not commit myself until I had seen one enjoying this unappetizing diet. Aristotle, however, was less cautious.
Ancient and medieval authors knew all about unicorns and salamanders; not one of them thought it necessary to avoid dogmatic statements about them because he had never seen one of them.
Meandering then is not a carefree, happy-go-lucky exercise; it needs a sketchbook and a critical set of friends to keep us on track.
I’m fortunate to have both.