One happy summer day, years ago now, I went blueberry picking with my eleven year old grandson. He was all over the place, leaping from bush to bush, getting scratched up in the brambles, telling me about this, then telling me about that – enthusiastically imparting whole bunches of information, each item related to another, and very interesting to hear.
As we walked home down the hill, I said
“I notice that you haven’t been taking your ADHD medication for the last couple of days.”
“That’s right. I haven’t – and do you know why?”
“No, tell me,” I answered.
“It’s that I like the way my mind leaps around between this and that. One thing gives me an idea about another other; when things bounce up against each other, they take me along into whole new places.”
That fruit (I also have ADHD) does not fall far from the tree. I told him about an article I once wrote called “Spinning Among Fields,” based on the story of how different kinds of sheep took to leaping over fences from one pasture to another, leaving all kinds of wool stuck in the wires so that spinners who came along after them found wool to blend into all kinds of new colors and textures.
“That’s ME,” shouted my grandson, tearing gleefully down the hill in a whirl of skipping and leaping.
I am currently reading a book by the physicist Carlo Rovelli, who argues against the idea that important scientific discoveries always contradict previous assumptions. There is something of Aristotle’s theory of gravity in Galileo, and there are elements suggesting quantum theory in Einstein. It is in the places where theories abut each other that important breakthroughs occur:
“The borders between theories, disciplines, eras, cultures, peoples and individuals are remarkably porous, and our knowledge is fed by the exchanges across this highly permeable spectrum.”
Or, as Krista Tippett puts it, “Wisdom and wholeness emerge in a moment like this when human beings have to hold seemingly opposing realities in a creative tension and interplay.” There is a problem, however, This kind of interstitial thinking can really irritate people who like to think one thing at a time and are fond of either/or categories. It got me into all kinds of trouble in a viciously territorial academic world that values loyally clinging to separate disciples, and you see it, more grimly, in the intransigence of power/over people like white supremacists who resist functioning as one among a variety of races.
The tangential talkers in our family drive our linear thinkers to distraction as we leap from topic to topic in a conversational style they call “always changing the subject.” So, with profound apologies to them (we have thrashed this all out and are working to communicate better when we are all together), I will be getting on with my wool gathering.