In the darkness of an early morning run I was approaching one of dozens of 4-way intersections that tend to interrupt one’s pace. I was heading south. From the west a large late model sedan was coasting to the intersection. Then as it closed the distance between it and the stop sign, I saw the break lights brighten, but not until the last minute.
As we proceed through life, we tend to identify things that we can relate to, and therefore gravitate towards. This typically influences many of the decisions we make. Hobbies, vacations, decorating preferences, mates, careers. It’s the way the world communicates with us, and how we communicate back. Musicians see music in everything, painters see compositions, accountants love the logic, truth and rhythm in numbers. Therapists see potential in their patients. Teachers see the future. I’m sure there are pathological reasons we do this.
I keep vigil on things that affect our experiences. Then, through various means, try and explain what I have witnessed to others. Obviously I can’t spell worth a pile of peanut shells, and my grammar is the proverbial iceberg that ships fear, but I love to write. As a designer I am cursed by a genetic case of color blindness and therefore have placed more importance on studying spacial relationships and form.
Such was the case on this day. Even in complete darkness, when the sedan approached I identified the silhouette. I recognized the shape and placement of the headlights, the overall length and general mass, as being a late model Mercedes Benz 300 series. The kind that always looked like it would be fun to cruise across the country in. Based on how late the brakes were applied, given it was so early in the morning and I was so close to the high school, I envisioned the person behind the wheel was a kid on his way to swim practice. In my “hood” these cars are typically utilized by parents or grandparents and then “handed down” to high school kids (life’s rough). I suspected that was the case with this one.
I have always admired this model of car, thinking it represented quality, substance, fine engineering and power. But then as the car completed this stop, and took off again, I discovered that the muffler was shot. The extremely loud bang-bang-bang of the pistons slamming away and the valves chattering along, rapidly deflated my opinion from one of complete admiration to one of thinking it was a complete pile of spent German scrap metal. Upon recognizing such a rapid reversal of opinion within me, I opted to occupy the rest of my run with dissecting and categorizing this event because the reaction seemed unjust.
If we compare our opinion of things to a giant jaw breaker, the similarities are recognizable. Each layer we remove reveals a new color until we finally reach what’s at the core. First, our thought is one of higher level based on perhaps uneducated opinions, the influence of others or our culture. Then there is the realization that the our first thought might be wrong, it’s challenged. Then there is a layer of awareness that things are not as they seemed, which can create a subtle fear. This is followed by an analysis of how we REALLY feel about something as it pertains to OUR life. Leaving, the “core” our final opinion of something, now based on an educated understanding of the situation. A perspective that is one we typically do not arrive at rapidly, but one we can live with. One that has been squeezed through our internal filter of values, cultural influences, family outlooks, education or whatever. The “core” is where we truly live. Decisions that have gone there and returned are ones that we feel the best about long term. Like with the jawbreaker, each layer takes effort to work through but finally we do and move on.
Countless times we have all had to wrestle this sensation. We see a hat we love and try it on only to discover we look like a dork in it, then have to admit it to ourselves. We see a camera that we love but eventually conclude that it is completely over-featured for what we need. We see a blender that we think would look awesome on our kitchen counter but concede to the reality of only truly needing it once a year. Last week a property that I have lusted over for years hit the market. We were the first in line for the open house. As much as I hated to admit it, it was a terrible design inside. There were funky bump-outs in hallways, and weird transitions from room-to-room.
During my morning encounter with the kid in his Benz, core thinking enabled me to maintain an admiration and allowed me to challenge but solidify the initial thinking. With this house, it prevented me from potentially acquiring a home that for years I had wanted, but ultimately would have failed me and my family. It’s the difference between living thoughtfully and living emotionally.
Often when are trying to organize a room we are forced to deal with items we obtained that perhaps we didn’t really need to. Organizing a desk top, a space or perhaps a life can be made easier if we only have to deal with things that truly matter… things at the core.