Outside The Box? What Box?

I was one of those kids who listened carefully when the adults were talking. I took in as much as I could, trying to understand the world around me. Every now and then I’d hear someone refer to “thinking outside the box.” And, in the literal way a child sometimes thinks, I would picture boxes around things, or try to.

When I got older, teachers would show us mind-mapping exercises. They always started with a concept written neatly inside a box or a circle, and you would spin off ideas from that. I never understood why we couldn’t just write the words down any old way we wanted. They were still coming out of my head and landing on paper. Why did they have to be organized in a specific manner?

The trouble with boxes is that they contain something, and I’ve always taken issue with containment. If you build a wall to separate people, there will be those who find a way around the wall, or over it, or under it, or through it. We humans are not meant to be contained, and neither are our thoughts.

The problem with boxes is, you can set them next to each other, you can stack them, or you can sometimes fit them inside each other, but there is always a layer between the contents of each box; a layer that separates those contents from everything around them. If you think outside the box, your idea may be free, but the things that inspired it are still trapped inside.

If we do away with the notion of boxes at all, we have ideas that are floating freely in our minds, bumping into each other or absorbing each other without constraint.

Tonight, my friend and gifted singer, Colleen Crosson, and I are doing a house concert. I will be reading selections from this blog, and she will be pairing those with songs she has chosen from her diverse repertoire. As far as we know, no one around here has ever done this before, but part of what excites me as an artist is trying new things and collaborating with other artists to see how our passions fit together.

I suppose someone might say to me, “I’ve never heard of a house concert that involved blog posts too. Way to think outside the box.”  But here’s the funny thing . . . I never saw the box to begin with.

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