A sample newsletter – Where do we get our information?
| I usually keep my more recent Choicecoach Blog fairly brief, and perhaps somewhat casual. I keep the longer – and sometimes deeper – topics for my newsletter, “Work in Progress (because we all are!)” which goes only to those who have chosen to subscribe. I post a copy of the full WIP newsletter here, at my blog site, only very rarely, just to give a taste of what you might get were you to subscribe. (Subscription is, of course, free.) See the form to the right —->
Here is the issue (very slightly edited) that was distributed to subscribers earlier this week.
“Work in Progress (because we all are)”
I didn’t actually subscribe to Scientific American, but here it is. Its half-sister, Scientific American Mind, to which I did subscribe, has gone “electronic only” and to forestall screams for refunds, the publisher is distributing the paper version of Scientific American, and, to my surprise, I am delighted.
For example, who knew that, of two forms of apparently identical lichen, identical even to their DNA, one is nutritious, and the other is poisonous? (Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this…)
Who knew that many lichens have a symbiotic relationship with yeasts, and that it is a much higher than usual density of yeast that leads to the toxicity? Who knew that other yeast-friendly lichens can be, and in some cultures have for centuries been, used to cause fermentation? (There are people who might, and should not, take notice of this.)
No, I’m not going crazy over lichen. My delight is with the intensity with which this magazine article speaks against the “molecular focused” attitude of some areas of science. There are those that never meet the subject of their studies out in the real world where that subject normally lives. They see it only under a microscope. This seems to be a tad one-sided. Only recently have some “new” lichen discoveries been reported that, it turns out, were known – in terms of practical use – in ancient Egypt and by some First Nations peoples. They did not, and do not, need a microscope to make some of these “discoveries.” Even today, some wise ones of the First Peoples can tell the difference between the toxic and non-toxic version of this lichen without need for microscope – or even for a taste of a sample.
Just as importantly, many of those facts were brought to the attention of the “experts” by a man with no scientific degrees, a man who studies lichens “in the wild” rather than “in the lab.” He has added greatly to lab-found knowledge – and vice versa.
How does this relate to you? I am absolutely NOT going on an anti-science rant. Scientific knowledge is hugely important to our well-being and we need to take notice of it. However, super-specialized knowledge that ignores context, linkages, and interactions, can take us only so far, in both knowledge and inspiration. As the old saying goes, some people “Can’t see the forest for the trees.”
When we pride ourselves on the narrow intensity with which we “focus” on whatever knowledge or activity we pursue, we need to remember, too, how much we are ignoring. The larger stage, invisible when the spotlight is focused on one central figure, is still there, and may hide an entire chorus, or an approaching and unseen villain. Let us remember that whatever our focus, the greater context is still “out there” and it should not be ignored. This applies to our own lives, our families, and our businesses, as well as to our planet. Not all connections and interactions are obvious at first glance.
Not only can we learn from “the wild” how context affects the focus, but it can also inspire us. In my moments of writer’s block I sometimes look longingly back to a time when I worked very closely with a large number of people, some of whom were new to me each day. I can remember being astounded at the number of potential writing ideas that came to me every day on the basis of those interactions. Now in a quieter phase of life, I do sometimes miss them.
Yes, many of us tend to value our independence, but there is a fine line between not allowing others to affect our lives beyond where we welcome them, and not allowing new and interesting ideas to spice up our thoughts. Both knowledge and inspiration can be found through the microscope AND in the wild. That is the point. I would not discard either, but I fear that science sometimes tends to disdain the wild, just as the some parts of the outer world try to discard science. Both matter. Both contribute. Using ideas/knowledge from both viewpoints can be far more valuable than counting on either one alone.
What can you do today to take your thinking beyond its usual boundaries?
(By the way, how do YOU pronounce “lichen”? Growing up in England, I learned to pronounce it as rhyming with “kitchen.” When I cam to the U.S. I discovered, to my amazement and confusion, that it rhymes with “liken.”
Let’s never assume that “our way” is the only right way. There are many ways, and the probability is that they all work, sometimes far better than we expect.)