The Adjacent Possible..

“..the adjacent possible defines all those molecular reactions that were directly achievable in the primordial soup. Sunflowers and mosquitoes and brains exist outside that circle of possibility. The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.”

Johnson, Steven (2010-10-05). Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (p. 31). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

Most people I know are building something. Or thinking of a way to build something. Or wondering what they should build. Or wondering what they would build if they had the right skills and talent. Or inspiration. There is an urge in all human beings to make stuff. Whether it is a painting, a relationship, a book, a presidential campaign or a new way to arrange living room furniture, everyone is making something. Or desires to make something if only they had the courage or the skills they assume they lack. In many instances, we yearn to take this to another level, and to make something that no one else has ever made. To make something that others will find useful. To make something that will revolutionize the way of making that thing from this point forward.

We have more than enough materials to make stuff with. We have metal, sun, oxygen, innate talents, education, books, instruments, technology, and on and on … Yet there is a mystery in how to integrate a singular vision with the infinite amount of materials and genres available and to produce something utterly new. Something that holds meaning and allows us to leave an indelible mark on the world long after our inspiration, and eventually our bodies, leave this plane of existence. It is the mystery that forces us to choose between our intuition and our fear and doubt; the trusty followers of those first sparks of inspiration. In order to carry out an idea from the inward to the outward, vulnerability is necessary. A blind step into the unknown must be taken with faith that the inner vision will take form. A hundred places at once, red paint hits canvas, chisels shape wood, fingers hit guitar strings, lips crush against each other and somehow there is a different result every time.

Johnson’s “adjacent possible” speaks to the infinite possibilities that reside outside of the finite amount of energy and resources available at any given moment. There is a mysterious element to creativity, a secret passageway that allows the creation of something new from material that has been used over and over from the beginning of time. I believe that by leaning into the mystery, into the fear, and ultimately the rush a new song, a new love, a new idea brings, we have the ability to discover an authentic  expression of the human experience through creation. In other words, there is never an end to what is possible. And there are few words to explain why this is so, and yet it is.

Where does your “adjacent possible” reside? Just outside of your comfort zone. Go there. Image

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