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hunting the horny backed toad

as the snow falls heavy outside, the wind so fierce it drives the flakes horizontal on the air, i think: this is such a soft thing, this thing, this thing of making and doing, producing out of thin air the objects and forms, images and words that all whisper of endeavour, of trial and error, failure, yes (always), of that micro-cosmology, charting the constellations of the human heart. what is an idea? is it that which contributes to our humanity, a nervous question, a thought harnessed to some intent, pointed, probing, taking this time we have and forming it, trying against all hope, against physics, to shape it into something that possesses a certain permanence, even if only for one moment? is it, in the end, a rejection of this duality that seems to bind us, in favour of some kind of delicate balance? in answering questions with questions, it would seem a point is proven: an idea is a question itself.

so, questions: this or that? this against that? this and that? what comes of adding two things together? just two things? or something else altogether? why? why is the sky blue? not, what physics, chemistry and biology contribute to our perceptions of blueness in the sky, but, why is the sky blue? here, in an unfortunate way (because it does not conform to the rational, but instead demands us to savour the joy of it) is where we start to investigate the ineffable.

i’m not talking about mystery and magic, although they do have their part, especially mystery (and, of course, love), but that which is possessed in the ineffable: the sheer joy of observing the vaulted heavens all around us and realising that all i can do is to get on and carry on, get on with these things and these things, letting them get on with getting out of me, ripping off that caul that grows through life over our sight and laying it all out bare, saying: come on, i am human and these things are of human endeavour so why wouldn’t i be interested? why wouldn’t they be interesting? scalpling out the critical instinct, transplanting scepticism for intent, infusing our biology with the necessity to always wonder (full of wonder) why.

that’s the first bit: then comes work. what happens in those grey cubes between the designated hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. is not work. it is �occupation’. filling time. filling that time then, not now, or now, or being in time, but frozen, impatiently waiting to be set free. so, there is the very notion of �freedom’, a construct to tempt the imagination that perhaps one day, one day … but what about work and life? another balance, work as life: the possibility that every moment may well be the one to act—or at the very least, having the choice to act at any moment, rather than fixed to those designated hours, this calendar, trapped, fettered, neutered by dates and by time; but, however, look there-back there-it came and went: one word which sits here at the heart of this, a key. choice. soft, gentle, immediate and contemplative. dangerous. the power thing inherent in an idea-for all ideas are neutral, surely, dormant and of equal value-yet given breath through the application of choice. the exercise of choice is the beating heart of an idea, inseparable one from the other, choice the engine driving forward motion (at that one moment), choice blind to right or wrong and only obeying intent. dangerous because so definite and unavoidable, consequence the punishment or reward, but taking that chance step with fatal choice to bring it out may just be the only way (maybe there is an only way? and the choice is whether or not to take it?) to realise the idea.

ideas come from everywhere. it’s no mystery. look at everything, listen to everything, research everything, read everything, go everywhere as often as you can: you know you never can, but you keep trying, in the same way that your heart keeps beating. that’s where ideas come from, and it doesn’t matter, because if an idea is just an idea, it’s nothing. yet the something that resides in the having, the getting of an idea holds a fascination beyond any worth, poised unsaid, the shadow of the real question, the conversation around the thing, never about the why of thing: yet there is an answer. it’s just that the real question is never asked: so, not, �where do ideas come from?’, but �why did you do that?’. there is always a why.

it’s all so seductive, this thinking-in-garlands, rapt in it’s own self-fullingness, circular to the point of negation. where do ideas come from? from my mind, out of my head. then i do something about it. that’s it. it takes what it takes: there is no mystery, none at all, so little that there’s hardly anything worth talking about, yet the fascination with the question provokes multitudes. why is that? why �where do ideas come from?’ at all: perhaps it’s not the question itself that is interesting, but, rather, why it exists. again, all propositions are of equal value-in itself, a thought, if worth thinking, is worth voicing. it may not be worth anything once voiced, may not contribute anything, may be evil, or sad, or transgressive. but the thought is not the act, and may be the one thought that urgently needs expressing. circumstance, emotion may prevent that expression, but necessity demands it. it is somewhere in this crux that we can find fear.

here’s an idea: don’t be afraid. not in the first instance, the moment when the choice to open the mouth is taken and there’s no going back. constantly make one choice, the same choice. speak. one step at a time, limited, careful, but always in motion, always acting. an idea is a lonely thing: no one cares for it but it’s parent, and you need to feed and nurture it, devote yourself to it if you want it to grow and take it’s own way in the world. what this requires is the conquering of fear, even to the point that fear is forgotten, gone completely, not even an instinct: when this happens, ideas come from everywhere.

ohhh! ideas: they come, they come from, yes, they’re coming, spat out fast and hard like so much fuckmuck, everywhere you look an idea some other idea, another one come off brought off fetched off with business, the rubbing business peristaltic, not one no none of them at allworth very much at all if you don’t mind me, don’t mind this application of value to this somehow unsaid unspoken yet very well known yes wellobserved and summated i’ll tell you precisely looked at and nailed down pinned down and interrogated good bad cop style until it confesses sobbing �i did it did it i did iit’ �did what?’ �wasted your time that’s what’ and they all leave the room lost interest because there was no contrast only grey in shades like distance or fog snowfall a christmas present considered against the music of water droplets considered like life or death at that moment and accepted with an �ohhh you shouldn’t of’ and you go off wondering (but thank god you can still)
where do ideas come from? from thoughts about things, conversations about those thoughts about things, and activity that realises the objects of those thoughts and conversations. it is true to say that ideas come from everywhere, but it’s a simple truth, not a mystery. the most mysterious thing about ideas is also the most practical: ideas require work. the mystery inherent in this work, this effort, is something to do with the simple sitting-down-and-getting-on with-it of an idea: for example, you have an idea to keep a diary, one page a day for 365 days. on the first day, there is an empty book. on the last day, there is a full book. what happens in between? you write a page a day. that’s all: but you have to do it. then, when the work is done, there’s the next idea. and the next: carrying on, never letting success or failure determine the worth of an idea, but rather ideas themselves being their own reward and the act of work confirming their necessity through the fact that it is done.

yet ideas do not fall out of the thin air. they do come from involvement, commitment, intent. again, effort, a willingness to make many attempts yet see only one bear fruit. an ability to reduce through analysis a welter of forms, propositions, approaches, and questions to their essence. an ability to know that with this thing that came from the idea, this object, there is also it’s reason, and that you know the reason, and that you can answer the question �why?’.

all of this has something to do with the moment, something to do with showing, or demonstrating, how things can flow unfettered and also unsung: all those lost or hidden things that were once ideas and are now finished objects, shelved, cheaper than they once were because no longer new, fresh, contemporary, but still ideas, still had, once, by someone somewhere who knew, who just really knew that this was the one, the very one and only and there would be no more, not one other … but time passes, passing on, assigning history to the moment, to the smallest thing, outweighing with distance, that subjectivity, that observation, that simple weight of words that culture slops on to the tiniest thing, the most simple of things, unbalancing the snapshot with the critical weight of the overfed mind.

and still the wind is still churning the tiny snowflakes in a frenzied dance, teasing them with the promise of settling down to earth.

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PUBLISHED ON Oct.09.2003 BY graham
Armin’s comment is:

then, when the work is done, there’s the next idea. and the next: carrying on, never letting success or failure determine the worth of an idea, but rather ideas themselves being their own reward and the act of work confirming their necessity through the fact that it is done.

You made my day you crazy brit. I owe you a drink at Tortilla Flats for this one.

On Oct.09.2003 at 04:40 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

my, how we wax poetic today...

I've always thought the best ideas come from a place in the heart. Without ego. With honesty. With consideration.

Two examples:

The original plans for Grand Central Station called for two grand staircases, but only one was built at the time. 75-80 some years later, during the renovation, the second was built according to the original plans. EXCEPT! It was built an inch shorter! That way future archeologists would know it was built at a different time.

Second example comes from either Oxford or Eton (hey, I ain't English). I heard that the founders planted a grove of oak trees when the original campus was built. They estimated the large supporting beams would need to be replaced several hundred years later and created a perfectly sized source that was easliy accessed.

Both sources acknowledge the truth of time, death and entropy. Both supress monuments to individual ego and offer gifts to future generations.

My best ideas are only identified when the client or end user does that little intake of breath and quietly says "oh".

My best ideas come rarely.

My best ideas serve others.

On Oct.09.2003 at 05:24 PM
eric’s comment is:

damn you graham, my headache was just starting to go away.

On Oct.09.2003 at 05:42 PM
KM’s comment is:

I can't believe I read all of that! Very nice... Made this gloomy Seattle day a bit more, well, it's still gloomy.

On Oct.09.2003 at 06:28 PM
Andrew Shurtz’s comment is:


(two offerings)

On Oct.10.2003 at 08:49 AM
Bryony’s comment is:

We all know that ideas are the end result of many other things, such as experiences and observations. Ideas can be reached in a linear way, when we sit down and try to find it based on the information at hand, and we plan and work to achieve "the idea". On the other hand, we can reach our goal in a non-linear way, which is something we have all experienced in the middle of the night, when grocery shopping, when getting a pedicure... you name. This is when we are not thinking consciously about the idea, bur random thoughts that will suddenly find a connection, something to bring them together, and thus sparking an idea. This is what I call the AHA! moment. After that, we have to make it work. An idea is no more than an idea, if in the end we prove it won't work, this is the time that requires the most amount of work, when we need to test the idea, and prove its functionability.

This process, in my opinion, can only be successful when truth, and pure honesty are present. We have to be honest with ourselves, we need to be objective and subjective, we have to immerse ourselves and keep our distance, in order to eliminate the bad ideas and only keep the core, or the essence and work on it. Massage it if you will, until we have a perfect functioning idea.

The question then rises, what makes a good idea? Who is the judge of such idea? A good idea is the one that will have an effect on the particular domain in which it was developed. There is a before and after, you can feel and see the difference between the times. The domain will be the judge of this, your peers, colleagues, clients, coworkers, all individuals who are active in the area in which the idea will reside.

All that we experience, all that we observe and hear and write in our journals, it all comes down to an incredible amount of knowledge of which we are many a time unaware of. It is this information which will help us reach new and interesting ideas, ideas that can be good, bad or even a fluttering thought that could become the most important thing we ever do.

On Oct.10.2003 at 11:35 AM
rebecca’s comment is:

> so, questions: this or that? this against that? this and that?

That. Definitely that.

On Oct.10.2003 at 12:14 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Ideas are the darndest things. They'll hit you like an 18-wheeler going at 100 miles per hour and if you are not paying attention they will escape you in an instant. It happens to me all the time.

For me ideas come at every moment, it doesn't matter if it's during my 8-6 shift at the office or while riding on the train back home. I don't see my office as a place where I can't create ideas, on the contrary, it provides a certain enclosure where I can develop the ideas: I have a computer, pencils, sketchbook, the internet, my chair, my lava lamp. All these things allow me to think.

The movie I did for Veer shows exactly my process for creating ideas. In the case of a client project I start with a "problem" with certain parameters that will define the end result. What happens in-between is the best part, the free flow of thoughts: memories, smells, cool movies, bad packaging, good pizza, TV, clouds, the backstreet boys, whatever. It is this freedom in my mind that I cherish and look forward to with each project.

Ideas are a great thing. Even if it's an idea as ubiquitous as what shirt would look good with which pants it's an idea and it needs to be embraced, because one day it will itself turn into an experience that might fuel new ideas and so forth.

Thanks for making me think about this Graham.

On Oct.10.2003 at 02:24 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

I tend to find that my ideas infiltrate me in the oddest ways--I look for them and look and look and look, and I just have to wait til they find me. Til they actually seek me out. I find that when I need an idea that I often have to be patient (and that is not a virtue I have, by any means).

It is almost like the idea needs to germinate. To wit: I am provided a challenge, I take in the requirements and then have to let the muse-- the idea --evolve organically. In some ways, (and I think that this is a nice thing) I do not feel that I have much control over my creative ideas. They happen when they happen. I will need a solution, but won't find it in the office; I will find it in the garden, or the kitchen or the street on my walk to work. That is when life is most beautiful, when you actually feel that you are in possession-- however briefly--of all that is sacred and precious and genuine in the world, and it happens without manipulation or control or desire. Or even trying. It is natural. It is magical and truly lovely.

On Oct.11.2003 at 11:17 AM