The Value of Vision

"To me, fractals are an interesting visual parallel of the nature of life – how firm boundaries and rules still give rise to variety and surprise. These are surprises that are self-similar and unending, even so, in fractals, they are endlessly unique. Life is similarly composed of many regulations. Admitting this, many people slip into grim fatalism, yet, in my view, regulation isn’t cause for resentment. Far from it! Rules are inherently creative, and, perhaps counter-intuitively, absolute freedom is chaotic and paralyzing. This, I believe, extends into matters of will. We are free to choose, but boundaries which are outside of our control often determine what category of opportunity within which we are free to exercise our will. Yet, limited will is, in my experience, a mercy – and a great one at that. Limits may be the greatest mercy of all and the true guardian of freedom."
{Linnea Gabriella Spransy, as quoted on World of Forms}

I was chatting with someone recently about where I want to be in five years, and I mentioned that I have a roughly charted plan to move to England, which I will happily follow if nothing should happen to keep me here. It's the standard Millenial perspective, the vague expectation that something better might come along. It takes a million forms, from my unwillingness to commit to a plan for radical geographic transplantation to people who prefer to get a divorce instead of fighting through a rough time because all they can see is the painful present and they have lost sight of what brought them together in the first place.

When you know what you're working towards and you are committed to it, it streamlines the process. Hearken back to trigonometry for a moment and recall a ray, which has a beginning point and extends indefinitely in a specific direction. When you have vision, your life is the space between two rays. Both inside and outside of that space, there is a vast field of possibilities and opportunities, some of them decked out in the neon glow of a "Once in a Lifetime Experience" sign. If you aren't committed to your direction, it can be so easy to get sidetracked into something that has no overarching value, something that lies outside of your boundaries. The result is like treading water: you ain't gettin' nowhere fast, son. If you are willing, however, to make the so-called sacrifice of sticking within that space, you will find that you actually move within reach of your goals.

Ironically timed aside: I occasionally become slave to my own extended metaphors, so what follows might be complete balderdash.

The interesting thing about a purpose-driven life (apologies to Rick Warren if that's a copyrighted phrase...) is that the end result turns a popular perspective on its head. I made a boring graphic, because it was better than explaining what's inside my head:

Consider someone like Steve Jobs. I don't know too much about his younger years, but it seems like he was pretty dedicated to his vision, and I think most people would agree that he accomplished a lot of it. The cool thing about his life though is that as he came nearer to reaching his goal, his life, opportunities, influence, all that stuff, it didn't become smaller as if he were honing in on a single point: it all got bigger. He set out to do one thing that he was really good at, and because he didn't get distracted from that goal, he did so much more than change the field of computer technology. His influence is felt in music, books, design, a hundred other areas, many of them fields that his talents were not individually suited to impact substantially if he had pursued them. The cool thing about vision is that by limiting us, it actually releases us to do more and do it better. 

One of the comments that Linnea Gabriella makes about her art is that she never really knows what the end result will look like. She starts out with a lot of lines, so intricately painted that it's almost like tracing a Mandelbrot set. But into that order, she dares to introduce chaos, simply by pouring a boatload of paint onto partially finished pieces and seeing what happens.

Life gets messy. Sometimes we make our plans to move to England, but there's a major setback. We think we'll be married with children by age thirty, but somebody wasn't in the right place at the right time, and it just doesn't work out that way. Sometimes the huge splatters of paint flow over our neatly, creatively organized lines and lists, and it's okay, because the final result won't look anything like we expected anyway. Maybe the paint splatter was the difference between a good life and an awesome one. But the point remains that the final result only has meaning because it has borders.

1 comment:

  1. As Aristotle says, "The end is a limit" (To telos peras estin).