World Math

Sometimes we pretend that the world can be divided.  We talk about the “real world” as if it is some place you can go visit or avoid if you so choose.   We distill the stories we hear and daily experiences of life through our own filters and leave out what does not fit into our container of reality.  Or we live so neatly in our own tight circles and minds that we forget that there are other experiences, other daily realities, other vantage points, and that each is real.

Good designers and artists tend to remember this and act upon it.  A friend who does landscape design comes to mind.  She volunteered her time crafting the school garden and in the process of contemplating her design, she would squat down to see the playground and garden beds from the kindergarteners’ point of view.   I was surprised to see that the arms of the benches, seen from the top as simply curved arms, are actually circles.  I can no longer spend time on that corner of the school lot without seeing things differently now.  I’m always tempted to lower my stance, get down, and see it the way the kids do.

The more grown up you get, the harder it seems to be to forget basic math—that the world is the sum total of you + me + the next person + the next person, continued indefinitely.  Our individual voices form the chorus of our communities.  Our personal behaviors aggregate into collective actions.  This is true in families, towns, schools, corporations, and entire nations.  These organizations are the sum of the people in them and the choices they make every day.   The real world is all of it.

If we are to continue working together to address the challenges of our time, we need to remember world math.  What can each of us bring to the equation today?

© June 2010 by Pam Daniels.  All rights reserved.

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