The Box on the Board

I once had a teacher do the following.

At the start of class, he walked silently to the board. He slowly drew two parallel horizontal lines, and then connected them into a rectangle with two vertical lines. (By this time, we were all quiet, watching.) He then asked us a question: “What do you see?”

Every answer tried to describe what he had drawn. A box? A TV? A picture frame?

After some time, his response to us was: “Why are you all only talking about these four lines? My question to you was ‘what do you see?’  You could have chosen anything in this whole room, yet you are all fixated here.”

He was right. He had never told us to describe or even look at the rectangle.

The point of the exercise has stuck with me: we allowed what he drew on the board to corral our thinking, to limit our vision and conversation.  And this led to the even more important question: how, outside of the class, do we unreflectively allow our vision to be limited?

If we allow [insert dominant cultural narrative] or [insert news outlet] or [insert social media platform] or [insert cultural turf battle] to frame our thoughts, it will surely limit how we see and think and live.  

Relying on outside sources of information is, of course, inescapable, but it is always worth it to consider how a given source corrals the conversation and might get us stuck in an unproductive pattern.  

Every day, we can choose to get unstuck by choosing a wider frame and starting a new conversation.

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