What’s The Alternative?
Do Contribute | Social Entrepreneur
Beyond the straight and narrow…
Dimension is most often seen as a measure of distance or size, i.e. length, breadth, depth, height.
How high is that mountain?
How far is it to the first pitstop?
How big is your backpack?
But dimension can also indicate aspects and features of an object or situation…
Such as time: do you think we can climb the mountain in an hour?
Or weight: what did you pack in this backpack, the kitchen sink!?
Or repetitions: how many times do we have to climb this *£%$* mountain before we get the T-shirt??
And if we take it one step further (and forget the mountain for a minute), dimension can also be applied to intangible things such as thoughts, feelings and memories…
Now this is a side of your personality I haven’t seen before! Remember the colour of that starfish we found on the beach last summer? Can it really be this frigging cold in the middle of June?
These different aspects of our lives all help to create a richness of experience.
Building richness and complexity into a simple life.
To live a richer life, we don’t need more stuff, we simply need to look at things from different perspectives. Getting objective about our world and about ourselves, gives us a more three-dimensional view of our environment and our place in it.
“While most people see the world in a horizontal way, people in the Andes have another way to see life. They actually see the world in different levels and altitudes. They see the world in a vertical way, not in a flat, horizontal way.”— Virgilio Martinez, Chef and Owner at Centrale Restaurant in Peru.
What happens when we only see and live horizontally?
Our life might resemble a Gantt chart. Logical, linear and routine-bound, one step after the other. Milestones, goals and end points can seem far away or unclear, because there are other, closer things obstructing our view. We may feel we have to become or achieve one thing, before we can do another.
What happens when we look UP?
Looking up, things can seem closer, compared to when we reverse that view from on high. We can see more layers too - how multiple things can exist at once. Think of different cloud types at different altitudes and speeds. Aspect, height, texture and detail can add more meaning.
What happens when we look DOWN from up high?
We see a bigger picture. Things may look smaller or further away, but we fit more into our view. The environment below may also flatten out, as it does when looking at a contour map or Google Earth, making things seem simpler or more surmountable.
We’re not linear, and neither is life.
We are the culmination of every dimension, aspect and experience in our lives. We carry who we are with us and it filters into everything we do. It adds to our depth of character, to our richness.
But our reality is extremely subjective. Our eyes can play tricks on us, as this mind-bending article of visual delight highlights. So what we think of as real or realistic, may not be. Likewise what we might think impossible, becomes possible when approached from a different angle.
To make sense of our world, to stimulate our creativity, to create magical things beyond the horizontal, try looking at life from a different perspective or altitude. Do a multitude of different things to contribute to the richness, robustness and complexity of your experience. But keep it simple too.
This reminds me of Anna Koska’s talk at Do Wales in 2016. I can’t do her beautiful words justice from memory, but the gist of her closing thoughts were … all of the differing roles and aspects that she engages in - bee carer, veggie grower, bug rescuer, sausage maker, chicken wrangler, forest runner and loving mum (to name just a few) - help to make her the well-rounded person she needs to be, in order to be a successful food illustrator.
There is no single best way to look at the world, or live in it.
But if we look at things from more than one perspective, then we get a more realistic, accurate picture. Make curiosity, learning, appreciation, exploration and experimentation part of your visual life threads.
Most importantly practice changing your view, in the world and in your mind. Lie on your back and look up at the sky. Climb a few hills or mountains and look down into the valleys. Look at why your neighbour supports the other side, even if you disagree. Imagine those ‘impossible’ barriers to your hopes not actually being there.
There will be times when the straightforward, logical, step-by-step route is best. But for a touch of clarity and perspective, remember to also look up, down and around.
Curious about connection, communication, design, learning, wellbeing and potential. Sharing thoughts on doing life and business better in our digital world.
Illustration by Tanya Griffiths