Surmounting the Hump
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Surmounting the Hump • Posted: Mar 30, 2009 04:33:30Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

The conventions of thought are so peculiar. Take, for instance, an incident that occurred today. I was out walking, enjoying a wet Spring snowfall, near an intersection at a place where there was no sidewalk, snow thick on the shoulder, but the pavement was completely clear. So I walked out onto the pavement to get around the snow and onto a cleared sidewalk. But in the process I encountered an oncoming vehicle, a late model BMW X5 SUV containing a well to do 40ish couple. The guy was driving. He slowed for me, but he didn't stop. Instead, he edged by me so as not to cross the yellow line that divided the roadway. There were no other cars on the road anywhere near us. He could very well, in the interest of safety and deference to a pedestrian, have either stopped until I got out of the roadway or crossed the yellow line and gone around me. But in his mind there were no options. He needed to go forward and he had to stay inside the lines. So he squeezed by me.

Earlier, along a far more busy street, I observed a different SUV abruptly slow in the left lane and then change to the right lane directly in front of a heavy truck in order to make a right turn. The truck blasted his horn, slammed on his brakes, skidded on the wet pavement, and very nearly collided with the SUV, not to mention all the cars forced to abruptly slow behind him. Again, the driver of the SUV saw no other options. He could have planned ahead to be in the right lane, signaling his intention to turn. Or, he could have proceeded to the next intersection and gone around the block. Instead, his inflexible thinking nearly caused his own death and risked injury to many others.

The rigidity of thinking common to both those events is trivial compared to the rigidity of thinking behind longstanding tensions in the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, etc., etc., and which so disappointingly characterized the previous U.S. administration. Nobody anywhere at anytime has ever been pleased with the results of such thinking and yet it persists and persists.

I think back to the reign of Chicago Bulls basketball with Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippen, and Phil Jackson. Yes, there was an underlying structure of teamwork, but that structure encouraged resourceful, flexible, creative approaches to each new challenge. They were thrilling to watch. With their example of success, how could anyone in today's world ever imagine rigidity of thinking could be the best approach to anything. It just isn't. The entirety of evolutionary history is littered with the remains of countless species that rigidly failed to adapt and adjust as conditions changed. Human history recounts failure after failure after failure to flexibly respond to change.

No change in thinking is easy. Engrained habits, rules, and laws help us to almost automatically stay within previously safe bounds. But we sign our own death warrants when we fail to realize a change in thinking is necessary.

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008
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