My Little Theory About Expansion

January 23, 2014

Sometimes nature is cold, and the chest heaves with shock as we haul ourselves off to work. She is anti-social. But, she is pretty sometimes.
BBC snow

Even when she is destructive she is surprising. She threatens to break down our schemes and our ideals of law and order. Things may become less useful therein, but do they also become less attractive? And do we sometimes gain when things fall apart?


Quickly enough nature changes. Unpredictably, too. You need to take what you can now, because it might not be the same tomorrow. Moreover, you can take comfort, because even those aspects that annoy you will fade away as the zeitgeist is refreshed. Better, you should take a broader view, beyond what’s comforting; comfort is not the best thing a person can have.


The human body (and mind) has a remarkable ability to adapt itself, to acclimatise to circumstances. The first sip of a beer is always the best, equally the first bite of most foods the most memorable. This applies over a longer timescale too. Tastes evolve according to habit. After regularly eating spicy food, you can stomach more spice. Lots of mature cheese, you crave more mature cheeses. Lots of time spent with a disagreeable person, you begin to see their good side. Studies have suggested that even though wine enthusiasts can distinguish between wines better, they do not enjoy those wines any more than the average person. Indulging in luxury frequently removes the luxuriousness, and merely sets a new baseline of expectation. Better to keep some things as a treat to be enjoyed between friends.


No matter how nice those nigiri may be, after a while would come cravings of a different colour. Cabbage perhaps, or spinach (yes, as strange as it sounds to some, I have laboured under a craving for spinach on many occasions). This is also nature - she likes divergence, and change. Those that can’t adapt to this change, like dinosaurs or dodos, die out.

Better not to single-mindedly pursue the perceived best, what one should do is to chase a wider range of stimuli. Nature, she gives us a variety even from day-to-day. Cold today, warm tomorrow. Dry today, rainy tomorrow. Windy today, still tomorrow.

Looking at overall trends, there may be advantages and disadvantages everywhere you go. In England it is usually too cold and rainy, but friends from Tropical countries have told me that the summer in England, when she emerges, is the perfect weather. But even this weather, if you start to exercise, can quickly start to seem oppressive. Hot, humid and tiring. And, don’t forget to put the sunscreen on! The point is, there is no one perfect thing to aim for.


Similarly, we shouldn’t talk of making ourselves better, but of expanding ourselves. Each person has explored some territory already through their experiences. This is not all physical territory, and the physical is not the important part of any exploration. We can explore in our own towns, or even without leaving the house. There is a whole landscape of ideas which also are an important part of the world despite their invisibility - those of psychology, programming, literature, economics, aesthetics, mathematics, and so on.

Royal Academy

Of course some ideas are not so invisible. Ideas don’t have to be academic. We can feel them, touch them see them and hear them. One can stimulate ideas through activity - through yoga, or meditation one becomes in touch with the body and mind. Or through drawing or painting. Similarly in different forms of exercise you explore the link with your own body. An experienced weightlifter has much more awareness of his posture, and of which muscles he is exerting when he lifts things. A seasoned runner has a reliable sense of his own cadence which the beginner lacks.

And some kinds of ideas just can’t be categorised. They don’t need to be either. They are just novel. Alien and yet familiar, they delight us. They do not give us a reason or a meaning, simply, because not everything needs one. We tend to regard this as the realm of the arts, but this isn’t limited to galleries, or fairs, or pavilions. Surprising, and divergent ideas are all around us. Whether in various types of design, or often in rather less tangible forms.

CitizenM Netherlandsv Pavilion at Biennale Venezia

It is at this point that we must make a little disagreement with mother nature. Sometimes, she tells us to be wary of the new, to stand back and to avoid things we are not familiar with. But, this does not apply in our man-made environment, for two reasons. Firstly, we have much more information available to us to be able to judge the risk of various unfamiliar things. Secondly, and more significantly, the environment which is shaped by man has a predisposition to exclude those things which are dangerous, and to include a plurality of gratifying things. If we stay within this realm, then we have much less to fear. Other people protect us - this is civilization.

Verzasca Dam Bungee

This principle goes even further. While we were traditionally tribal creatures, we are tribal creatures no longer. We are civilized creatures with tribal instincts. Most of us live in a land of abundance; we seek to fulfil ourselves through opening up more possibilities rather than by trying to fulfil our needs. We have all we need to sustain ourselves.

What does this mean? It means people are less dangerous than our instincts may tell us. Most people are living in a secure situation and are predisposed to collaborate. So, yes, its okay to give your sincere output now. You don’t lose by it. You give it and then observe what comes back. Where positive returns are received, you must commit to reinvesting. Where nothing or negativity comes back, you make the decision to close out your position. From the start, there’s no risk, since it can in fact be easier to give than to withhold.

Following this resolution, one expands through first diversifying connections. Then we should filter based upon what works. We find that with some people, we can continue to expand. Like with some ideas, and some activities, we find each expansion brings more opportunities for linkages between people and ideas. This is freedom.