Innovation (March 6)


“We are more ready to try the untried when what we do is inconsequential. Hence the remarkable fact that many inventions had their birth as toys” (Eric Hoffer).

DELIGHTFUL THINGS OFTEN OCCUR WHEN WE’RE WILLING TO TRY SOMETHING NEW. Perhaps that is why children’s lives are so full of joy: their natural sense of playfulness encourages them to turn things upside-down and inside-out. Young people’s lives fairly bristle with innovation, and the discoveries they make are often of benefit even to those much older than themselves.

As grown-ups, we often find it hard to get the right balance when it comes to innovation. Sometimes we go to the extreme of worshiping whatever is new, and we foolishly toss overboard anything that has any age or tradition to it. When we’re in this mode, we need to be reminded that there’s nothing inherently valuable about newness; it’s value depends upon its context, and we need to think twice before we smash a tradition that can’t be recovered once it’s destroyed.

Yet we often go to the other extreme as well. We become so wedded to the status quo that we reject innovations that would be truly helpful. The apple cart becomes so sacred that we dare not touch it. Yet, as Frank A. Clark suggested, “Why not upset the apple cart? If you don’t, the apples will rot anyway.” It would be foolish to blindly apply that thinking to every situation, obviously, but there’s no denying the value of the question itself: why not upset the apple cart?

Even in our personal relationships, there is a sense in which we need to be wholesomely innovative. No matter what the problem or project, if others can count on us to bring a fresh and helpful perspective to the undertaking, that’s a very fine reputation to have.

Whatever may be our individual talents and abilities, these were meant to be used — energetically and even innovatively. If we’re actively engaged with life, we’ll make some delightful discoveries in the course of trying out new approaches to old problems. We’ll be willing, at least once in a while, to experiment . . . just like the curious child who says, “I wonder what would happen if you did it this way?”

I will work out the divinity that is busy within my mind
And tend the means that are mine.
(Pindar)

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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