So there was a convention of scientists trying to decide what the most remarkable invention of the 20th century was. They argued for hours about space travel, computers, cell phones and the like and couldn’t agree on any one thing. So when one of the scientist’s husband came by with their six-year old daughter, they decided to ask her what she thought was the most important invention.
She thought for a moment and replied, “The thermos.”
Her Mom said, “Come dear, think about all the things a computer can do or how amazing it is to fly to the moon. What’s so great about a thermos?”
“Well, when you put something hot in a thermos, it stays hot. And when you put something cold in a thermos it stays cold.”
“Yeah, what’s so special about that?”
The daughter whispered, “How does it know?! ”
I thought of that joke today when I read out loud a little talk I’ll be giving this Thursday. It seemed fine on the page, but when I read it out loud, it felt less than inspired. The content was okay, but it just didn’t swing. It didn’t sing. So I re-wrote it and I re-read it out loud and thought, “Yeah!”
So how do we know when something feels right and when something isn’t quite right? Not just in the things we write or the music we play, but in all the aspects of our life. We’re trying to figure out whether we want to keep dating this guy or gal or go to a meeting where a dubious decision is announced and we can’t yet find the words to articulate what feels wrong, but we feel it. Is it important to try to find the language, to analyze, to speak clearly what needs to change and why, be it a word on a page, a note in the phrase, a color in a painting, a vibe in a room or the future of a personal relationship? Well, yes, I think it is. But the beginning of the matter is that intuitive sense that something is off, an intuition we need to learn to trust. And at the end of the matter, after all the reason, the logic, the excuses, is simply the bare fact: something didn’t feel right.
How do we know? Like the thermos. We just do.