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Posted August 26, 2001
New Windows and Mirrors to Stimulate Your Mind
I have long been a fan of Roger von Oech's work on creativity (see A Whack on the Side of the Head and the Creative Whack Pack card deck). I found this book to be a pleasant and valuable addition to my resources for stimulating my thinking in new ways. The book's core are 30 epigrams ('a terse, witty, and often paradoxical saying') of the 125 that have come down to us in the quotations of other authors from Heraclitus, as written 2500 years ago. Mr. von Oech has taken the traditional translation and updated it into more conceptual English in many cases, which makes the material more accessible. 'All things happen according to the logos' (from Heraclitus by T. M. Robinson, University of Toronto Press, 1987) becomes 'The cosmos speaks in patterns.' Each epigram begins with an imaginative line drawing to give you an initial impression of the concept. Mr. von Oech goes on to provide some key subpoints in a brief essay, some examples of the concepts and subpoints in action, and occasionally gives you puzzles and brain teasers to play with (the answers are at the end of the book). The longer the section, the better I liked it. So I left the book wishing it had been longer. That's my usual test of how helpful a book was to me. While many of these epigrams meant nothing to me on first reading them, Mr. von Oech's explanations soon made each an old and valuable friend. Mr. von Oech suggests three ways to use the book. First, you can read it from start to finish as a creativity workbook. Second, you can take one epigram a day and make it the focus of a meditation for that day. You can repeat the list at the end of 30 days ('You can't step into the same river twice' so you should get new insights each time). Third, you can use the book as an oracle. When you have a question, randomly pick an epigram (there's a random number table in the book to help you do this) and apply it to the problem. I would like to suggest a fourth application, as well. You could use the epigrams to stimulate group creativity in problem-solving situations involving others. Space does not permit (nor would fairness allow) publishing all the epigrams here, but let me share the ones that had the most impact on me. 'That which opposes produces a benefit.' 'A wonderful harmony is created when you join together the seemingly unconnected.' 'I searched into myself.' 'Many fail to grasp what's right in the palm of the hand.' 'When there is no sun, we can see the evening stars.' 'Things love to conceal their true nature.' 'Those who approach life like a child playing a game, moving and pushing pieces, possess the power of kings.' 'Sea water is both pure and polluted: for fish it's drinkable and life-giving; for humans undrinkable and destructive.' 'It is disease that makes health pleasant, hunger that makes fullness good, and weariness that makes rest sweet.' 'The way up and the way down are one and the same.' 'A thing rests by changing.' 'Donkeys prefer garbage to gold.' 'Every walking animal is driven to its purpose with a whack.' 'Your character is your destiny.' 'The Sun is new each day.' The summary combines all thirty epigrams into a brief essay. I encourage you to take one of the epigrams above and apply it today. If it helps you, go on to use another one tomorrow. If that is working, order this book and keep using other epigrams daily until the book arrives. Then, see how Mr. von Oech's thoughtful ideas about the epigrams expand your thinking even further! Be prepared to find diamonds in your coal mine! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent SolutionWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 18, 2001
Original, Useful, and Thought-provoking
A very original take on the ancient Greek philosopher as the world's first 'creativity teacher.' The author makes Heraclitus come alive with practical ideas, suggestions, and stories to help get our thinking unstuck. Highly recommended! I'm giving it to friends.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.