What is natural

A favourite lecturer of mine once asked why we are surprised about anything we find humans doing - because anything we find them doing is only natural.

It is culture that inhibits, applying imaginary boundaries to what is natural. Sometimes this is beneficial, sometimes this is harmful, often what is perceived as beneficial and harmful will change over time.

We have basic biological needs and constraints. Anything outside of this we have the ability to create, shape and give meaning to.

A 3 year old with 5 blocks of duplo

On Friday mornings I get some one on one time with my 3 year old son. This morning we went to a cafe, and he insisted on whittling down 12 blocks of duplo to five blocks as the toy he wanted to play with while we were there. 

After placing our orders he taught me the game he wanted to play with the blocks, which was simply to construct something recognisable using these five blocks. We proceeded to spend the next 45 mins taking it turns to build over 100 different objects.

Not only were both of us utterly enthralled and energised by the game, but I learnt so much about the nature of creation.

Many times I did not know what I was going to create. I had a hunch about how I wanted to arrange the blocks, and then only once it was complete could I see what I had made. We also feed off each other's effort, getting inspiration from what the other built. And the crazy thing is, my son came up with some really good stuff. A bird's nest in a tree and grass. A crocodile. A car.

What this got me pondering was the nature of constraints. It seems to me that it is only through constraints that we can find out what we are capable of. Without them we are without meaning, without form, and without purpose. It is because of gravity we can grow. It is because you cannot use your hands in soccer that Cristiano Ronaldo is so good with his feet.

I choose to constrain myself, and in so doing I will find out what I am actually capable of. Like building the propellor of a plane using five blocks of duplo.