Beginning and End and Beginning

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New years are good times to take note of past accomplishments and experiences, and to process what happened in order to make plans for what comes next. But there’s often not enough in-between time to clearly mark an end and make a new beginning. Things blur together and we pick up the pace once again without having fully caught our breath. I took the opportunity at the end of last year to head as far off grid as I could manage. This allowed me to experience an end to not just the year but to old thinking as well. Returning with a slightly utopian glaze over my eyes I realized something; that we often expect things to change but all the while cling to the past.

The analogy within my industry couldn’t be more poignant; we’re absorbing and embracing new technologies, experiences, problems and opportunities at an astonishing rate, but in so many ways attempting to deal with them in a completely old-fashioned way. Technology companies founded on engineering are failing due to a lack of sensitivity toward user interface. Automotive companies produce ‘eco-friendly’ cars that can cause more environmental damage in their manufacturing than a normal car will over its lifespan. In the economic world the analogy is even clearer; we’ve attempted to buy ourselves out of debt. Einstein’s adage holds true to this day, that ‘the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them’. It’s a cycle. The criteria changes but the way in which we deal with it, as a whole, has not.

 

 

If you were to ask yourself here and now to make clear sense of the undeniably massive changes occurring in the world you’d probably find it difficult. The time and space required to step back and see things for what they are seems impossible to find. We simply don’t allow the necessary processing time for the unprecedented level of information cycling through our brains at any given moment. This is why the end of some things is just as important as the beginning. There are a few different ways to look at this. While creation & destruction are complementary states in eastern philosophies, it’s not something we necessarily embrace in the modern technology fueled world. If we spend a significant amount of time creating and processing, we’ve then got to spend time to filter and destroy what’s unnecessary. It’s why I love the Tibetan sand mandala. Created by Buddhist monks over days and sometimes even weeks using colored sand, these elaborate pieces of art take utmost skill and concentration to craft. Upon completion they are ritualistically destroyed, symbolizing the Buddhist belief in the transitory nature of material life. Like all good design, the process of the sand mandala is complex in meaning but simple in its presentation.

 

 

Our material world is quite the opposite to this. We design things that should be temporal but last thousands of years – like a plastic water bottle – or things that should be long-lasting but deteriorate before they’ve finished doing their job – like so many of the cell phones and laptops we gladly toss away once they’re upgradeable to the latest model. We seem to have a lack of interest in the whole process, focusing too much on the creation and consumption and too little on the consequences. If destruction is considered from the point of creation onward  then the end result will be the right one. The simple fact of the matter is that in order to move into the new, we’re going to have to shed off and destroy the old, and give ourselves the breathing room to do so. Everything will evolve and adapt over time, it’s the natural cycle of all things, but I think now is a good time to reflect on our role within that cycle and do away with the things that don’t work. It may mean slowing down all together and doing less at times in order to be more effective when we inevitably have to speed up once again. We shouldn’t have to wait until New Years to make these kinds of decisions either because every new day offers up the opportunity to do things differently. And if not today, then tomorrow will work just fine too.

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.’ T.S. Eliot.

 

Article Info
Posted by: Leon Fitzpatrick
Thinking About: Creativity / Design / Sustainability / Technology
Location: Chicago
Website: http://www.leonfitzpatrick.com
Twitter: le_professional
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