My magic castle

My magic castle

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Systems and Magic

We are often taught that the first step of the problem solving method is to identify the problem. But this is not necessarily easy. The problem may be a big complex one made up of many small problems. Or the stress around the problem makes it hard to approach in a logical manner.
This is where the tool of creating systems may be helpful. Impose a system on the problem and see what you find out. You may think you were working with categories that turn out to be the wrong ones. But you find this out by putting things into their categories and they don't fit. Remember, one of the first principles of magic is that it is well formed. If something doesn't work try something else. That is even a principle of mathematics. George Polya taught that if a problem couldn't be solved you could solve a similar problem and that might teach you enough to go back to the original problem and solve that, in his book from 1945 "How to Solve It."
Putting things is order, even if it isn't the right order, can be soothing and relieve some of the stress you may be feeling. If I am feeling a bit of writer's block I go back through my notes or organize my desk. That often lets an idea percolate and I am able to get back to my creative work.
I tutor in a lab for community college students preparing for a test they have to pass to get admitted to a certain program they want. I assign them books from which to study and they have to keep them in a drawer in a file cabinet in the room. I had been noticing that it was taking a long time for students to find their assigned book. I was wondering how I could use the numbers marked on them to make this easier. But one of the students took it on himself to lay the books a certain way, with the numbers showing as a brand, or identifying mark, not as being in any special numerical order. Since then no one has had any particular problem finding their book. His simple system of making the books lay all the same way was all it took.
You can use this idea of using systems to bring magic into your life. Make a list of the joys you are experiencing, of the magic you already have brought to yourself. Make a list of your strengths and how you can celebrate them to bring more purpose, joy and flair into your life or to others. Tweak a bit here, pat a bit there. A system must always serve the greater purpose, never be in place just for the sake of being a system. Find your own system, your own sense of purpose and order. Perhaps you are highly visual and need shelves rather than file drawers. Or perhaps clear pockets hung on a wall would work for your office. When you sense a problem reach out to the magic that surrounds you, take a breath of comfort or fun, and drop a bit of system on that problem. If a simple system doesn't solve it you may find that you have gotten a start on it at least. May the spark be with you.

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