Saturday, July 9, 2011

It's Elementary, My Dear

Living in the Berkshires, I have a new a appreciation for ruts.

We live on a mountain. Well, really it's a large hill. Our house sits about three-quarters of the way up. When it rains, water rushes down the mountain from behind the house, is diverted to the left and right by culverts and then continues on down towards the road 150-feet below.

Just before we moved in, the road and driveway were redone by a local excavator who apparently knew less about water management than your average second-grader in Holland. Each time it rained, the tiny crevices that ran down and crisscrossed driveway grew bigger. From one storm to the next, it was difficult to see the growth, but grow they did.

After about a month, you could see significant change. After two months, you could feel the change as you drove the car. After three months, you needed to navigate the ruts so as to avoid jostling passengers or spilling coffee. After four months, you needed an SUV or truck to make it from the road to the house. After five months, we found another excavator.

From rain to rain, the changes were imperceptible. Yet, over a period of a few months, the driveway was transformed from a smooth plain to a series of canyons.

Of course it wasn't the water's fault. The water was simply doing what water does, seeking the path of least resistance.

It wasn't the driveway's fault. The driveway was doing was doing what driveways do, becoming weaker where it is weakest, resisting less and less.

When we finally had the driveway repaired, it was quite expensive. The first few months we lived in the house, we rented. It was only after we purchased the house that we could do something and by then there was more rut than driveway. The man who replaced the driveway knew about water management: since then, no ruts.

Our minds are quite like our driveway. Thoughts run through them seeking the paths of least resistance and finding them. Each time a path is followed, it becomes a bit deeper and wider, a bit less resistant. It becomes easier and easier for the thoughts to find and follow those paths. The changes are imperceptible from thought to thought, but over time the neural paths become large ruts that are almost unavoidable, that is, until you excavate and redefine your mind.

The beauty is that it takes very little to create a new neural pathway. You don't have to excavate; you just need to create a tiny non-resistant path. Once the thought-flow finds it, the flow will take care of the rest.

In someways, learning is a process of deliberately creating ruts, new pathways for thought. Once the ruts are established they continue to grow each time thought flows through them. Over time, you end up with a brand new mind.

Happy Saturday,

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