Culture places enormous pressure on all of us to follow the rules. As toddlers we’re taught not to touch the hot stove or to put foreign objects in our mouths and to go to sleep at bedtime. Later, in elementary school we were taught not to color outside the lines and were rewarded for regurgitating information more than for being creative. Consequently, most of us are more comfortable staying and playing within the rules than we are with challenging them.
This makes absolute sense; if there were no rules, what would prevent someone from driving 100 mph over Vail Pass? But by following the rules, we also reinforce the notion that we must think of things only as they are and not as they could be.
Take a close look at the following letters. QWERTYUIOP. We’ve all seen these letters hundreds or maybe even thousands of times, but how many can identify what this particular order of letters represents? Ok, no more suspense, they represent the top row of letters on a standard typewriter keyboard.
In the late 1800’s Sholes & Co., the leading manufacturer of typewriters at the time received numerous complaints from users telling them that if operators typed too fast the keys would stick together, so the management of Sholes & Co. asked their engineers to figure out a way to prevent this from happening.
After much discussion, the engineers concluded that if they slowed the operators down the keys wouldn’t jam as much and proceeded to design an inefficient keyboard configuration, that’s right, Shole’s engineers purposely built inefficiency into their design.
Many of the most used letters of the alphabet were positioned on the keyboard in order that the relatively weaker ring and little fingers were used to depress them. This logic was then extrapolated in re-designing the keyboard and that’s how today’s keyboard came to be configured the way it is. By thinking creatively the Shole’s engineers solved a problem in a manner that at first blush appeared counter intuitive
It’s easy to become prisoners of preconceived notions, which is why it may not be a bad idea to occasionally challenge conventional thinking. It’s healthy and indicative of an open mind, and regardless of where a new or different type of thinking may lead us it can be an intellectual adventure to attempt it. Besides, by becoming locked-in to a certain world-view we blind ourselves to other world-views that may be more valid.
In most cases we construct ‘internal rules’ and establish a framework of beliefs based on what we perceive as true. We then follow a particular line of thinking and stay within our arbitrarily fashioned thought process. Then times passes and more often than not the dynamics that underpinned our predispositions are modified or no longer exist, i.e., “things change. But what too often happens is that even though original reasons for our predilections no longer exist we continue to adhere to our old paradigm, which is no longer valid or effective in today’s world.
We have an election on the horizon and while most minds are already made up, it’s important to ask ourselves – should we retain our predilections and biases, or should we try to break out of this pattern in order to discover another? The truly open-minded individual is open to opposing ideas even within their own mental constructs. And it’s here where we have a responsibility to our families, our community, and our nation, but most of all we have a responsibility to ourselves. And since those responsibilities are filtered through our respective worldviews it’s up to each of us to occasionally refresh that view or at least remains open to others.
As children we lived in a world filled with a sense of curiosity, merriment, and inquisitiveness, and it’s our continuing responsibility to cultivate these natural attributes and occasionally color outside the lines.
Quote of the Day: “In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior.”