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Philosophy - John C. Kirk

Oct. 19th, 2004

12:13 am - Philosophy

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Apropos of nothing much in particular, a theory that I've been kicking around for a while. Life is like a Rubik's cube - sometimes you have to make it worse before you can make it better.

Back when I got my cube (the big craze in 1980 - they were literally everywhere, on keyrings etc.), I wasn't very good at figuring it out. I cheated a bit by getting a book that taught a solution, although I didn't get very far with that until I was a few years older. Anyway, one key concept that the book emphasised (which is counter-intuitive to beginners) is that you can't just solve it incrementally, i.e. one square at a time. In particular, you can't say "Ok, I've done the yellow side, now I'll leave that alone while I do the red side", due to the way that the cube is built.

Firstly, you have to look at things in the right context. Every movable piece has one position where it belongs, e.g. each middle edge has two coloured faces, and so the yellow/red edge piece has to be adjacent to the yellow and red centre pieces. If it is between the yellow and blue centre pieces, the yellow side might look fine, but the blue side will never be complete until that piece is moved.

That leads onto the second point - chances are that you will have to move that piece into a "worse" position on the cube before you can get it into the right position. So, it feels like you're going from a situation where you have 1 side out of 6 done to a situation where none of the sides are complete. But if you don't, you'll never solve it.

A significant issue here is that it's not just a case of keeping a stiff upper lip, and waiting until it's over - you have to actively make things worse. The other issue is that there's no guarantee of success - you could wind up with a cube that's scrambled even worse than it was when you started.

Taking this as an analogy for life, I think it's all too easy to get stuck in a rut, where you're not happy with the way things are, but you're not quite uncomfortable enough to risk making them worse. This could apply to various aspects of life, e.g. career or hobbies. In my experience, the hardest part is "working without a net", since these changes tend to involve going solo (at least at first).

I don't have any real conclusion to all of this, but it's something I try to keep in mind if I have decisions to make.


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Date:October 21st, 2004 01:50 pm (UTC)
That was thought-provoking ..... and i do agree that sometimes one's got to make things worse in order to make them better. Fits in rather well with some thoughts i've had about my Ph.D, too.
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