Home free at last

Once we've passed through an exit, we find ourselves in limbo. Our previous frames of reference no longer provide comfort, orientation and justification for our actions. We are going through a psychological transition. We long for some structure. We're not meant to live in a state of disorientation, limbo and pervasive uncertainty. As Meir Navon said in his wonderful comment on Well marked exits:

Now I live in the open and must tell you that sometimes I long for the coziness of the closed box!

I'm confident there are many orienting frames of reference beyond this state of flux. Going back into the "massive machine for the manufacture of controlled content" -- is not the solution. It's my nature to watch the horizon for "life after limbo". Here's what I'm seeing as likely ways to combine structure and freedom in our professional and personal lives:

Life as a game: When life is game, productive experiences are fun. It's perfectly natural to make learning "game-like". It's easy to take everything as a challenge in the game and an opportunity to advance to the next level. The orientation frame of a game makes more sense of unstable situations and rapidly evolving relationships -- than trying to fit circumstances into a obsolete box of "plans and procedures".

Life as a story: When life is a story, we are hooked from the start. We watch other characters grow through their arcs as we take the protagonist role. We enjoy those setbacks and blocking characters as much as the comforting guides and allies who appear through the journey. The story's suspense and successful "suspension of our disbelief" keeps us living life fully. The way the story unfolds is very "sticky", memorable and useful.

Life as a blue ocean: When life is a blue ocean, there is nothing to fear. The sharks cannot attack the water they are in or kill its eternal nature. The choice of where to go starts from already being everywhere. Getting somewhere occurs by flowing without struggle, striving or over-exertion. Previous limitations from rivals, battles, conflicts and shortages fall by the wayside. While doing things of a practical nature, we offer a life-supporting presence for every other creature.

Inside the machine, we rely on structures for knowing what to do. Outside the machine, we use other frames of reference to understand life and how to relate to all in all. We are in transition between those frames.


  1. Intercultural differences...

    Thank you for the compliment, but it's "his wonderful comment" and not hers...
    Well, I couldn't expect you to know Hebrew...Maybe next time?

  2. Thanks for the wonderful comment, and for catching my gender error - it's now fixed Meir.

  3. Hi Tom,

    I've been reading your past several posts, and I can see your "Taxonomic Side" coming out in its full glory. I think I'm going to have to study "Well Marked Exits" a little more before I fully "get" it.

    One thing struck me as I was reading it. For the past several days I've been thinking about what "playing with a problem" is about.

    Typically, when we play with an idea we allow ourselves to try a lot of different approaches. Often, that means eliminating constraints. However, I think that a very liberating form of play is to add a constraint or two to the situation. As Frank Lloyd Wright repeatedly told his students: "Limits are an artist's best friend."

    I think it can be argued that the product of almost every activity can be made more creative by adding constraints. If you're a photographer, you're only allowed to take photos between 3:15 and 3:30 PM for the next week. What does that do to your eye? If you're a cook, you can't use more than 20 grams of any ingredient, etc.

    Perhaps I'm confusing metaphors here, but lately I'm thinking less about exiting the box, and more about what it means to be further constrained inside it.

    Anyway, a lot of loose thoughts.