The other day, I sat in an overstuffed chair in the lobby of the retirement center beside a 92 year-old woman who tends to have her finger on the pulse of the community. Since I’d heard rumblings about recent staff changes, I imagined I might glean more insights. As for the changes, she seemed to take them in stride and patiently explained that with new management, change is inevitable. She even suggested the disruption might be for the better.
I confess, I’m resistant to change, especially when it involves the operating system of my computer. Still, in an effort to be sociable, I agreed with her and quipped a little spilled milk at a retirement center had little impact on the rest of the world.
A twinkle came into the eye of my companion when she heard me. “Ah, but you see,” she said, leaning forward to whisper. “It’s always easier to sit on a mountain than on a tack.” No doubt my bellicose laughter embarrassed her. But how true! Personal disappointments, even small ones, seem harder to bear than upheavals in remote corners of the world.
Of course, adventuresome souls court change. Being adaptive is the hallmark of a healthy brain, I’m told. What is an artist or a scientist without curiosity and a willingness to think differently when confronted by a challenge? According to authors Scott Kaufman and Carolyn Geogoire, the Beat Generation writer William Burroughs “would chop up random lines of text from a page and rearrange them to form new sentences, with the aim of freeing his mind and the minds of his readers from conventional, linear ways of thinking.” (“How to Cultivate Creativity,” Scientific American Mind, Jan/Feb, 2016, gp.62.)
A little insanity never hurt, either. To think “outside the box” may mean the box isn’t all that sturdy. A 2013 study of 1.2 million Swedes at the Karolinska Institute found that children of autistic or schizophrenic parents “were significantly overrepresented in scientific and artistic occupations.” (Ibid pg. pg. 67.) A distinction exists between the creative person and one who suffers a serious mental illness, however. The creative person can distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. (Ibid pg. 67.) ( Related Blog 1/15/16)
As for my 92 year–old friend who knows the difference between a tack and a mountain, I’d never dare question her acuity.
(Originally posted 1/21/16)