Thinking outside the box

One cannot go through a day in design school or watching television without being flogged by this mantra. What does it really mean to think outside the box. The phrase refers to a traditional topographical puzzle called the nine dots puzzle. The challenge was to connect these nine dots with a single line, with the conditions that no two lines must intersect and neither must the pen be lifted from the paper. This puzzle has been “simplified” into the four dot puzzle, where the player would use a combination of straight and curved lines. The secret was in thinking outside this box onto the piece of paper that did not have any restrictions. To date I still find myself drawing imaginary lines that never seem to connect, whenever boredom takes its toll. The box and in turn the puzzle represent a fundamental design problem that has kept me awake on many nights. It is the idea of form and of thought that is free of its constraints. Vitruvius Pollio and in turn Da Vinci called man the universal unit of proportions and the value of an inch was derived from distance between the  tip and the first joint of your finger. We are the reference point of all things and up till a couple of a hundred years ago we were the center of the universe. We see the world as spheres, triangles, cubes, planes and the space in between as a negation between two such forms.

How is one then able to think outside this box? This form? I suggest you try this little exercise. Think of a thing in the known universe and even in the far recesses of your own imagination that is without form, or that is not defined relative to another form or shape. Even when you think of the far recesses of space, it is impossible for you to think of it without that bounding “box” or sphere, black as it may be. An optimistic professor said tiny steps, that’s how change is made. But the direction is another thing altogether. A similar conversation with a friend in the context of time, space and time travel led to an interesting thought. A human experiment if you will of placing a new born child in a vacuum. A shell where the child could create a world out of their own imagination without any outside influence. This experiment would solve the dual purpose of the age long discussion of genetic information that is passed on from father to son or mother to daughter and the permutations therein. I agree that this idea might sound revolting to some and honestly speaking inconceivable. You would call me an extremist and perhaps we are content with the boxes that we construct for ourselves, some large, some small. Truth be told we still haven’t figured out the vast complexities that lie within the box itself. That my friends I will leave for another sunday evening… As for today I am lost.

There are times when I think of myself standing under a perpetual sun and a circle for a shadow… there are times when I stand on the outer rim running in countless circles or completely overwhelmed by the space that surrounds me and others when I am within the circle, safe and yet agitated, with feet planted on solid ground, wishing I could fly.


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