The Power of Both

The Old Irish Goat has me in the mood to keep exploring nature for lessons on how to be the most creatively entrepreneurial person you can be, and I want to share one of my favorite stories.

It was a Sunday morning, I was driving home down a quiet country road, low swampy woods on both sides. Up ahead, crossing the road, it was hard to tell at first, but yes, it was two shapes, very small critters of some sort, in a jerky locomotion and not making much progress fast, so I pulled my pick-up over and discovered they were two baby snapping turtles, likely hatched in the previous 48 hours.

When I picked up these perfect miniatures of the 40 pound adults they become in about 10 years–they can live most of a century, and some specimens get as big as 80 pounds–one of them disappeared into its shell and the other stuck its neck out as far as it would go, and opened its mouth to threaten me.
baby snapper

To give them a better chance to reach 100 years I decided to put them in my truck to drive the mile or so to the path I knew that would lead deep into the woods to a creek, and I would release them there.

So I did, and I placed the two baby snapping turtles in the water, and in the blink of an eye, they were gone; they had each vanished in an instant, by following very different strategies–one disappeared into the soft mud creek bottom, and the other darted into the deepest water.

And so whatever predator was after them, one of them would have survived.

I was staggered by the beauty of it–it made me weak in the knees while my spirit soared. I found myself on my knees, humbled by nature’s balance and grace.

I was walking back through the woods when the creative lesson came to me. I saw that opposite behaviors can be reconciled when the right question is asked. In this case it wasn’t a question about how a baby snapping turtle should behave when threatened; it was a question about how a clutch of baby snapping turtles survives.

And I thought about how often I have been challenged, when doing creative work, to bring together disparate thoughts or ideas or actions and felt like I had to choose one over the other, or compromise the two which usually results in something less than the outcome I was working towards.

I now saw that when faced with interesting or attractive opposite ideas or solutions, I should step back and reconsider the question I am trying to answer, or the strategy I am trying to develop, and see if I can reformulate it, restate it, so that both can be true.

It was years later that someone helped me understand the immediate effect watching these snapping turtles had on me when he defined transcendence as the reconciliation of two opposites. You transcend limitations and something new is created.

And that’s what we are trying to do so often in the creative process; we are trying to find that relationship between two things previously unrelated.

We are attempting a transcendence.
adult snapping turtle

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