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"Living on the Edges" mind matters
November 7, 2002
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Life is what happens at the boundaries. This is where we develop.

Take two different things, put them next to each other, and you have something interesting. Itís how television sitcoms are invented, by bringing together opposites. Itís how chemistry works, by finding melting points and molecular reactions. We live our lives discovering and sometimes creating boundaries, and we develop there.

On a planetary level, life and evolution occur where one medium meets another. All planetary life lives effectively at the air boundary, but most life lives where air meets both land and water. Amphibians developed there, and birds evolved from them. Human civilization grew above ground and at river mouths. There are boundaries that signal change, like day and night, hot and cold. For our planet even to have life, it must have exactly the right amount of everything. We are truly on the boundaries of existence, and we live our lives accordingly.

On a societal level, our biggest battles and growth areas are cultural. We have social and financial strife, and yet we find room for our neighborhoods and homes. We can keep up with the Joneses, or we can help them during difficult times. Both are about the edge.

Our internal boundaries define us as individuals. We construct emotional barriers to protect us, yet we attempt to surpass our physical limitations. Creativity and achievement stem from the battles we wage against the boundaries placed upon us. We must always outdo ourselves.

Boundaries donít have to have barriers, but many do. Our bodies bind us. We build fences around our yards, and walls around our kingdoms. At first these barriers protect us, but soon we grow too big or ambitious to be contained. Of course, barriers aren't requirements for valuable adversity. Within them we thrive: educational institutions, sports competitions, research laboratories. Every good environment has deadlines, expectations, challenges, and competing ideas.

I like the image of the sandpiper, a tiny bird that runs along the surf at beaches and picks for coquinas within the sand. When the waves come in, the bird runs away; when the water recedes, the bird chases the foamy edge in its search for the best food. This is the relationship we share with the edges, running toward and away from it, and finding nourishment in between.

We need adversity and challenges to live. If we are not challenged, we do not improve as people. We must seek out these boundaries and barriers and test them. Some of them are positive and useful, like keeping yourself honest in a trusting relationship. Some appear hurtful and unfair, like being rejected or shut out. Together, these are simply challenges, spurring desires like wanting to fly and to live healthier lives.

Listen to the small changes in your life. When does your body feel tired? When do you stop yourself from saying whatís on your mind? How many times a day does someone tell you donít or canít? These are your clues, now donít shirk your obligation to change the world.

Boundaries can be pushed. Barriers can come down. You can grow.

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Copyright 2002 Seth Maislin


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