Muddling Through

I originally went to college to be a teacher but when I graduated there were no jobs in teaching so I followed my friends and went into accounting. No great vision just wanted to keep in with my friends. After accounting I moved into computers because that is where the jobs were, then I saw an advert for a job in IT in London; I got the job and moved over. A year later I got a good job offer in Ireland and moved back home. Then a girlfriend, a house, got married, had kids and then another work opportunity came along and I took that. Looking back it’s quite obvious that I had no great vision for my life; I just made a decision based on what was before me with the best information I had at the time.

I have learned that we train our brains to think in a short term and in a linear fashion. Research says companies and politicians look forward a maximum of 2 – 4 years, that’s all! No long term vision just short term and mostly reactive. Even if we come up with a great idea, our linear short term thinking will mean that we often think reactively with regard to its implementation.

Why is this important?
Because it can have a disastrous effects on nature. Neonicotinoids are an insecticide that affects the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. Usage was granted based on research that indicated one spray dose had minimal effects on the environment. What happened when our linear, short term brain’s got hold of Neonicotinoids?

See bug – Spray Bug – Kill Bug – Ug!

See bug – Spray Bug – Kill Bug – Ug!

See bug – Spray Bug – Kill Bug – Ug!

Yes we have sprayed multiple times and with multiple devices. Not thinking of the effect that these insecticides would have on other creatures in the environment such as birds and bees and butterflies. Neonicotinoids used on corn seed in Germany are being held responsible for the deaths of millions of honey bees in 2008.

See bug – Spray Bug – Kill Bug – and inadvertently kill lots of other wildlife as well.

So is there an alternative to short term linear thinking and muddling through? Well I feel there are two.

The first one is Associative thinking. There is an amazing story about the famous Russian scientist, Dmitri Mendeleev, who came up with a novel arrangement for the elements of the periodic table. The periodic table is a tabular arrangement of the chemical elements that make up the Universe, such as oxygen, carbon, and iron etc.

At the time scientists couldn’t understand how all the elements were related (or associated) to each other. They had listed elements by atomic number but there were gaps in the list because all the elements had not yet been discovered. Lists of numbers are linear thinking but it would take more than linear thinking to sort this puzzle.

There were 3 aspects involved that had to be considered, atomic number, electron configurations and recurring chemical properties. A biographer of Dmitri Mendeleev had a really interesting insight. Mendeleev used to play the card game Patience (Solitaire) a lot. Patience is a card game or puzzle that requires the brain to think associatively. In the card game, the cards are laid out in columns and blocks, like Mendeleev’s periodic table. Also in Patience you need to always be thinking of 3 aspects, the suit, the rank and the colour. Being able to associate the cards across 3 aspects allowed Mendeleev to think associatively and bring this associative thinking to the periodic table. The result was a periodic table that is laid out similar to a patience card game and in time all the gaps in the periodic table were filled in. He had associated all the elements by atomic number, electron configurations and recurring chemical properties. Amazing! It would have taken years of linear thinking to possibly figure this out.

Nature ‘works’ associatively. If you want to hear about some of the amazing ways nature does this, please watch the following video where I give examples of the magic and interrelatedness of nature (with special reference to the Bodélé Depression, there is no way linear thinking would have come up with the Bodélé Depression!).


So what apart from associative thinking what could we do to help us in our muddling through? Well for me the second option is to hold a Vision of the future world we want to live in. A vision is something I didn’t have for the first 40 years of my life. I didn’t have it and it’s something companies and politicians who only look 2 – 4 years ahead, don’t have either. So let’s EnVision the world we want to live in and consider how our deeds and actions affect all living beings in the long term and hold strong to a vision of an interconnected and cherished world. A world where there is a whole lot more associative thinking and a whole lot less muddling through.

For me that’s a world of Love, Beauty……and Magic!


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