December 1996

Root Page of Article: Going Into the Woods, by Christine Boese


It was nothing out of the ordinary. We do this so often most of us take it for granted. After a sustained period of random, associational thinking, a large overall analogy or metaphor took shape in my mind. The metaphor ordered the unrelated and discordant elements into a form that allowed me to say, "Oh yes! This thing is like that thing."

Some people would call this moment an example of nonlinear or associational thinking, as opposed to linear, logical thinking, where each premise or idea builds on the one before it. Some people would call it creativity, a mixing and matching of incongruous elements. Some would even call it "irrationality," despite the fact that my mind was off in the land of ideas and seeking a way to order and make sense of those ideas. What I would call a highly rational activity.

In fact, I might argue that some people learn best this way -- making random leaps and topical associations, reaching understanding through analogies and comparisons. How many people go back and trace linear lines of reasoning or narrative only after already reaching their conclusions by another route?

Meanwhile, the humble metaphor or analogy that came to me with that loud CLICK that day heading north on Interstate 35 through a very flooded and muddy Midwest, where Clinton was riding a Wave, where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were NOT dead, where Into the Woods show tunes played over as over and I dreaded the thought of moving yet again for graduate school, where Robert Coover was the triggering town, where a New Orleans street psychic told me I needed to do creative work more complex than poetry, and where a vision of the future wave of multimedia stretched out in my mind in a deep, long driving, technicolor daydream, was this:

Why not get to know a subject the way a kid gets to know the woods?

| Trailhead | React |

Contents Archive Sponsors Studies Contact