The intricacies of the human mind never fail to amaze me. There is so much bubbling on the surface, but yet more interesting is what’s bubbling below the surface. Like those remarkable electric fish in the depths of the ocean that one rarely sees, but are part of the ecology nonetheless.
So arriving back from Michigan last night, today is all about preparing for my next trip to China tomorrow. And I’ve been baffled about what to pack. China is cold, cold, cold in February, so it seems logical to bring the winter coat I just wore to Michigan. But from China, I continue on to Bangkok, Thailand and then New Delhi, India and it’s a whole different weather there. That bulky coat will not fit comfortably in my suitcase. What to do?
And so the trustworthy formula of “Problem, Incubation, A-ha!!” was set in motion. It’s truly a remarkable process that rarely fails. As follows:
Problem: The mind names and wrestles with some problem that demands a solution. The upper layer of conscious thought examines it from multiple angles, but as of yet, can’t see a way through it. Be it a scientist on the verge of a new theory, a novelist mired down in plot development or a parent trying to figure out how to get Julie to soccer, Johnny to gymnastics and still make it to the meeting at work, the wheels are turning and though they appear to be spinning in the mud and stuck in a rut, something is happening out of sight.
Incubation: Unsolvable at the moment by the willful mind, the whole thorny ball dives below the surface and continues to work in the subconscious, in the worlds of day dream or night dream. We don’t see it or feel it or hear it nor should we. “We” need to get out of the way to let the tangle untangle itself without our muscular interference.
A-ha!!: And then, if we’re lucky, it leaps up from the depths like a diver out-of-breath breaking through the surface of the water. “Eureka!!” Problem solved and we don’t even know who to thank.
And so I went to sleep and in the wee early hours of the morning, the phrase (or more properly, the image) “Icelandic sweater!” came into my dream life. I awoke, walked to my closet and there it was, the wool sweater gifted to me at an Icelandic Orff workshop in 1995 and one I’ve kept, but rarely wear in San Francisco. With my black Northface jacket, warm enough (I hope) for Beijing’s wintry blasts and yet foldable in my suitcase for my next stops in warmer climes. And with the extra perk of a warm (emotionally) association with that memorable workshop in Iceland and connected by an unbroken thread of international Orff teaching in the 23 years that followed.
So the morals of the story:
1. Trust the unfathomable depths of human ingenuity.
2. Choose your problems wisely.