The other day ago Jes and I went on a three hour tour around Manhattan. We floated past all the boroughs and under dozens of amazing bridges. And the final bridge on the tour was the one I use every day for Our Daily Bridge. And while you may have noticed the bridge before, chances are you didn’t notice the Little Red Lighthouse that lives at the great gray feet.
Airports. Airports. Airports.
In the wake of my Mars Hill Monday posts come a new series: Manhattan Monday (yes, I am one of those alliterative fools).
As someone who cannot dance (anyone who has seen me try knows that I have one go-to move) I am intrigued by people – especially geeky looking white men – who can. And while this troupe might not be line for America’s Next Dance Whatever, they were not afraid to play their iPod speakers as loud as possible and cut some cement in the southwest corner of the park.
It’s a daring, put-yourself-out-there, don’t-care-who’s-watching, do-your-thing kind of endeavor. Whether anonymous among a sea of bodies at a club or choreographed in broad daylight with your hipster-esque friends in the park, dancing puts yourself out there for anyone to notice.
So often we fear being left out that we do whatever possible to blend in. We wear the latest trends, say the latest catch phrases, and like or don’t like whatever we’re “supposed” to. But then once we’ve successfully donned the camouflage we try our best to stand out. We peacock with colors and signature remarks and whatever might make us stand out (all while somehow still fitting in).
And then you run across a group of hipsters dancing in the park.
Do they fit in? Sort of. Do they stand out? Obviously. Are they faint of heart? Not at all.
These two photos were taken within seconds of one another.
Not only does my phone have an amazing camera on it, able to focus on the tower of a bridge or the setting of the sun, but I have an amazing object to photograph from my living room window. But this post does not exist to hail the fantastical pocket sized computers/cameras/everything devices of Apple. This post exists to say, “Look at that bridge. Isn’t it amazing?!”
I wake up every day and remind myself how lucky I am to live in an ever expansive city like New York. From skylines to sunsets to rivers and subways, there is always something to look. It’s as if the whole city were perpetually grinning, saying “Cheeeese!” and waiting for me to snap her photo.
Well, city, I can’t snap all your photos, all the time (don’t worry, I’ll try). But I can capture the bridge outside my window. In fact, I take a picture of it every day I’m home! And you can find them all at Our Daily Bridge. Enjoy!
Jes and I were living in Holland, Michigan. She had a board meeting and was preaching at a church in Brooklyn and would be spending the upcoming school year interning at a church (the same church she currently works at as Associate Pastor). She flew out a few days before me and I joined her for the weekend. I boarded a plane in Grand Rapids where everyone looked and talked like me (minus my height and whatever Iowa accent I still carry with me). And when I landed in La Guardia I had entered, to quote Aladdin, a whole new world.
Immediately swept away by the sights and sounds, I quickly realized that I wasn’t in West Michigan anymore. I heard accents and other languages, I saw the full array of skin tones and clothes. My button down shirt and skinny tie that stands out in West Michigan was simply swept into the beautiful diversity of the city.
But this isn’t a post about New York vs. West Michigan. It’s a post about variety vs. singularity, diversity vs. conformity. This is a post about ideas. This is a post about what it means to be human.
My friend Andy always tells me that “ideation” is just a made up word for creative professionals. Or else he’s just making fun of a word he knows I like. But even if he’s right, it makes the word all the more fitting. The process of developing new ideas should lead to new ways to talk about them, even if they’re just made up words for creative professionals.
Divergence, or divergent thinking, refers to a diversity of ideas. This is the intentional fragmentation, coming up with as many possible ideas as you can (as opposed to convergent thinking which is sifting through them and bringing them together).
Both of these words share a common antithesis: when everything looks just the same. Unless you’re trying to create some artistic statement on uniformity, ideation and divergence are drawn to variety and diversity. They are the Midwest visiting New York City, realizing a world of color and sound that you didn’t realize was possible.
When I’m developing ideas, I value diversity and variety. The last thing I want is for all my ideas to all look just the same. In order to find the one that will be most helpful to a given context of problem, I need to see as many as possible. There is a time and place for uniformity, but it is not ideation or divergence.
While the first automobile might have been a variation of the horse and buggy, it soon became a whole other thing. iPods are an alternative to portable CD players, but they are also something else entirely. Ideation and divergence isn’t just about making a variation of something that already exists. They are about coming up with altogether different and new.
The original iPad was divergent. The new iPad is not. One revolutionized an industry. The other made us think, “Oh nice, the screen looks better.” One makes you ask, “What is that?” and the other makes you say, “Look, an iPad.” While we will always need new iPads, I want to spend my time creating the first one. This is ideation. This is divergence.
It’s easy to fall into a mold. Whether the perfect suburban family or the ideal hipster lifestyle, before long people can all look just the same. But your identity and your story are not called to look just the same; you are called to be uniquely you.
We are not just little boxes on the hillside. We are not robots and Stepford wives. We are unique and different and sometimes dissonant human beings. As the esteemed Theorodor Geisel once said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”
Be a human ideation. Live divergently.
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