Upside down and sideways


Years ago I read a book that challenged the way I looked at everyday objects. I don't recall the title, but I do remember two things:

One was a recounting of a perilous journey through a mountainous region in Mexico. The author, then a young man and the owner of an unreliable auto, had been pressed into driving an old woman back to her natal village. Sheer drops loomed to one side, while reckless drivers barreled toward them on the other. When the travelers finally saw the village from afar, it glowed with the golden light of a New Jerusalem, and the two almost wept with relief. But when the driver woke in the village the next morning, he saw it was a sad, filthy and impoverished place. Which then was the reality?

The second was his advice to "think sideways." Which brings us to the picture. We had a quickly constructed shelf, cleverly crafted from scrap wood and shaped like a pyramid, to place in a display window. We realized too late that it would block the spotlights. We stepped back for a moment. Then we flipped it on its head, thus transforming a rather ordinary-looking shelf into something that delighted the eye, because it defied the eye's expectations.

So forget about "thinking outside the box." And don't just think sideways. Think upside down, because sometimes even the most obstinate problem can be solved simply by turning it on its head.


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