In recent correspondence a couple of friends threw some memorable metaphors at me. SC (in the context of describing his ideas for auto-linking disjoint communities of interest via controlled-vocabulary tags on their web pages) noted:

... I think my problem is that I'm not at 30,000 feet and I'm not at ground level, and as a librarian roamer-of-the-web, I see interconnections and tend to cross pollinate between groups with little contact.

It's critical to do this kind of bridge-building among sundered clusters of people; that was probably one of the key reasons why Paul Erdös, for example, was such a glorious gift to mathematics. It's also a vital service to move fluidly between levels --- to go from a worms-eye view of details up to metaphysical heights where one can espy new relationships across vast distances of space, time, and topic. (see also TopDownBottomUp, 16 May 1999, and CreativeDevices, 1 Jan 2001)

In a completely independent discussion, EM (responding to a rant of mine about folks who try to diagnose and fix systemic problems without ever bothering to understand them) wrote:

... it's an attempt to treat this as a 50's style black box. We have to take time to open up the black box (like open source) and figure out how the box works, how to make a box (get beyond the black box), and make other black boxes ...

People want to "think outside the box." They are outside the box; the trick is to figure out what's inside. No one is willing.

What delighted me here was EM's inversion of a common cliché, and his observation that the real goal often should be to get into a box. (minor typo corrections and added emphasis; see also MandatoryInversion, 2 Sep 1999, and KenningConstructionKit, 17 Nov 1999)

TopicThinking - TopicPersonalHistory - 2002-02-10

What if it is not a box-but a collection of boxes? Like the present wrapped so delicately in tissue paper ; then placed in a stack of slightly larger boxes to gain the beautiful expression of surprise from a loved one---but most don't see the delicate paper;the beautiful surprise;--they see the box, box, box ,wow--something.

Had to say-I am also a traveller of the web; am amazed at all that is open to us now -and closed--seems more doors that we open ; we close thrice.

(correlates: DependentVariables, ToggleMe, HumanGenomania, ...)