I’ve been thinking about this quote a bit lately: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Einstein
That’s the true reason that often the answer to a problem is surprising.
It’s tempting to become entrapped by engaging with problems- we battle cancer, we fight corruption, we have political struggles, we crusade against injustice, and so on and so forth. Everyone understands that the dominant vision of how we are ‘supposed’ to solve problems is by fighting against them. We used activism, protests, medicine, surgery, legal structures, and so on and so forth.
We use these tools because the other solution- the real solution- is far too difficult and abstract and appears as if doing nothing. Moreover, it’s new agey, unscientific, passive, or weak.
Let’s take that quote literally. The “we” can be both personal and collective. “We” can be the royal we- which means you, and maybe me. Or it can be we, the collective, meaning “we the people” – whatever group of people we might be.
The path to problem solving is then, quite clearly, to change one’s thinking.
But what does that mean?
It’s so easy to think that fighting, struggling, battling problems is changing thinking. It’s working in seeming opposition to the problem, so thus, isn’t it “different thinking?”
I don’t think it is. It’s the same thinking- it’s dealing with the issue on its level, as opposed to a higher level. It’s typically violent, fighting type thinking, as evidenced by the words. One could argue that these words are not real, they’ve been semanticized to not mean anything violent in these contexts.
But I don’t think so.
So then, the ludicrous opposite becomes “We embrace cancer, we cooperate with corruption, we have political peace and calm.
That’s not different thinking either. Identifying the opposite of something is not creative. It’s straightforward- and it’s same level thinking.
Problems can, generally, be lumped into “things that people don’t like to have happen to them or around them.” But you’d think we loved them, based on how much time we spend thinking about them, fighting for or against them, reading up on or activisting about them.
This is the part where it gets extraordinarily challenging. This is the part that takes almost super-human thought and mind control, or some sort of borderline psychosis of compartmentalization.
It’s dealing with but not dwelling on. And it’s dealing with through as light a touch as possible.
Yes, sickness needs to be attended to. Yes, corruption and injustice are bad and we try to minimize them. Yes, people tend not to agree and thus end up in political battles that have to be resolved in order to avoid physical battles.
But all of that “dealing with” is at the expense of the something better. It’s people expending energy, time, creativity dealing with the problem at the level of its creation, as contrasted with simply folding the plane (time, problem sphere) so that the other side can be reached. Just collapse the problem, fold the two edges so they meet, and the problem disappears.
That is thinking at a different level.
It’s hard to do, but even saying that- even acknowledging that it’s difficult- is thinking at problem level.