Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The elegance of ideas

Every few months I sit down with the Medical Director of the Cancer Society of New Zealand who happens to be one of my oncologists and we chew the fat on what might or might not prevent my cancer from returning. It's a very special time for me as I test my latest theories and internet rumours against a backdrop of sound medical double blind studies. Dr C patiently listens and we explore the contradictions in the research and find a way to agree on the best way forward for me. We agree on the role of exercise in prevention, agree to disagree about sugar, and are both hopeful about experimental theories that might yet prove valid like testing individual tumours for their responses to varying forms of chemo before the treatment regime begins. "Nothing to date shows this has an impact of survival rates", he notes (improved survival rates are the gold standard for any new intervention) "but it's a very elegant idea."

His softly spoken calm expression of this simple phrase has stayed with me for weeks now. The elegance of an idea.The idea that an idea has a physical presence; might dance, or float or command attention as it enters the room.

I've always been seduced by ideas. The notion that the world doesn't have to be how it is now, that change is possible, that girls can do anything, and that we should make love not war. Sometimes the most simple ideas are the most powerful. And also the most dangerous.

Not eating seems to be a great solution for weight loss. But it's not an elegant idea is it? The most compelling ideas are those that are easy enough to understand but have a profound depth that challenges us to think differently, or act with more purpose.

I remember the first time I read Steven Covey explaining that between stimulus and response there is a gap and that each of us can choose how we respond to any given situation. We can choose to find the good in a person or hold on to the bitterness caused by hurt and rejection. The idea changed me and changed my life.

The idea that two people could hold equally valid, rational and totally opposing views on a topic was revolutionary for me. To reach an understanding that my opinion is not always right has been a long and painful journey. Particularly for anyone not so blessed to work with me.

Parents appreciate the idea that having more children multiplies your love rather than divides it, and that your children can be the very best and the most challenging people you'll ever meet.

Clifford the Big Red Dog has big ideas. Share. Be kind. Play fair.

My big idea for today is 'it doesn't matter'. Whatever is troubling you the most right now probably won't matter in the long run. Not much does. Eat well. Exercise. Shower the people you love with love. Do your best with what you've got. Nothing much else matters. The deadlines, the clock, your child's low test score, the weeds, the mess, the unsent thank you cards.

Find the elegance in your own big idea for today. Allow it to dance into the empty chambers of your mind and sweep you up in its potential power.

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