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Color Inside the Lines, Says Who?

Avatar in 3D, Disneyworld Imagineering, letting Brown ship it for you globally, the next generation of Windows or just some Ma and Pop joint trying to sell more pizzas, the phrase bandied in the business world is "think outside the box". Boxes are rigid, square, who likes being boxed in? I've stood in the batter's box and felt the embarrassment of being sent by the ump back to the dugout on a called strike but I've also felt the elation of hitting an inside the park homerun (Little League, 1964). The aim is always to get out of the box. There is a beyond. Astronauts, philo-sophers, preachers, abstract artists and snowboarders all talk about it.

From our first shot at Crayolas we were warned to color inside the lines. Thinking out of bounds was taboo. You were a trainee, not an artist or individualist. Follow the rules. They were posted on the classroom wall. Freelancing was frowned upon. Scribble and the colors could be taken away, or at least prepare for a lecture. That produced an orderly child – I was a Marine by fifth grade.

Architects deal in straight lines. Logic. Geometry. Watch the bubble on the level. There's a right way to do it. Think inside the box. But puberty is a form of chemical imbalance. Boundaries are tested. While naively swallowing Darwinism on one end, we grew suspect of Dad and Mom's wisdom on the other. No honest person wants to be thirteen again but it came with at least one good hormone, curiosity. Jesus taught that "unless you are converted, and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4). I'd say He was referring more to curiousness than clumsiness and cluelessness. All true growth invites critique. French literary Nobel Prize-winner Andre Gide advised, "Believe those who are seeking truth, doubt those who find it". Or who claim they have a patent on it. Einstein related how he came up with the Theory of Relativity, "I questioned and challenged an axiom". That is outside the box thinking. No man is dead until he quits enquiring how and why.

So then, how is a person supposed to "think" outside the box if not allowed to think? By which I mean reprogrammed, not preprogrammed thinking. Maybe what we've always heard is only part right. Have we limited ourselves to a box? Words like can't and shouldn't have tremendous influence on the already stunted. The outlines in a coloring book have their own built-in punishments. Fences are stretched to keep someone or something in or out. Menaces to society. Livestock. The boy with striped pajamas. A wanderer suffering Alzheimer's. Toddlers. Crossing the border illegally has gotten some people arrested, even shot. Fear is the Box's ablest warden. Ignorant or afraid of what's on the other side, we stay in our place. There . . . get back to the kitchen!


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