If you want to access hope — of the deepest and most imaginative sort — then start comparing.
“Self-help heresy!” you cry? Believe me, I know how you feel. As my mother likes to say:
“Never compare yourself to someone else because you’re comparing your insides to their outsides.”
Mom’s aphorism definitely got me through high school intact, but that’s because I interpreted comparing to mean finding the differences between things — “what does that person/situation/thing have that I lack?”
The true meaning of compare is more neutral and simple: “to prepare with.”
(For my fellow etymology-philes: com “with”+ parare “make ready, furnish, provide, arrange, order.”)
Arrange something from Column A with something from Column B.
Placing two dissimilar things together is one of the coolest games — and most powerful advantages — our human brains allow us.
When the dissimilar things are food and you arrange them in a kitchen, then you get any of the glorious menus I recently encountered in Portland, Oregon!
When the dissimilar things are ideas and you arrange them in your mind, then you get metaphor. And an infinite world of possibility.
Here’s one simple way to play:
1. Think of THIS problem with no apparent solution.
2. Look at THAT thing over there (whatever grabs your attention when you look away from the screen… or maybe you want to consider a particular idea, activity, era) and write a brief description of it.
3. Ask “How is THIS like THAT?”
Martha Beck once pointed out that the ability and desire to ask this question is what makes us humans such wonderful inventors. Other ways to pose this question and create solutions that don’t exist until you come up with them: analyze your dreams, draw a random picture, delve into an animal totem, or invent your own new ways for using connection to spark imagination. As I like to say:
“Always compare something to anything else because connecting your insides to their outsides is like topping sweet potato sausage hash with fig-infused cream cheese — crunchy, gooey, and delicious.”