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Despite his scornful dismissal of his companion’s intellect -- “Elementary, my dear Watson!” -- Sherlock Holmes was not a brilliant thinker. Rather, he was an astute observer. He noticed things that others overlooked, little things insignificant in themselves but which, when put together, led to a startling conclusion.
Observing is a key function of survival. It doesn’t refer only to eyes. Dogs observe with their noses. They detect hundreds of scents that we humans miss, scents that feed information about their environment, their safety, their food. Especially their food.
Birds and butterflies sense the lines of the earth’s magnetic field to guide them on their migrations. Salmon taste their way through a massive confusion of waters, back to their original spawning grounds.
We humans rely most heavily on our eyes and ears, to observe the world around us. We listen to conversations, to news broadcasts, to public address systems. We watch people clothing, their body movements, their interactions, for clues to what they’re thinking or feeling.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: Writing, Sherlock Holmes, observing, psychology
This is my 1000th Sharp Edges column. At around 50 columns a year, that’s almost 20 years of writing a weekly column!
“How do you find something to write about every week?” people ask me.
That’s easy – by paying attention. To the world around me. To my own reactions. To what other people are saying.
Given the number of issues in the news each week, the problem is not finding a topic, but selecting which topic to focus on.
But there is a second step. If a local story grabs my attention, how does it connect to a larger topic? If an international story, how does it relate to life here in the Okanagan Valley. Or closer still, in little Lake Country. Or even in my own home.
There’s no point in raging about Donald the Dump – or lobbying for an endangered salamander in the Congo – if it isn’t relevant in some way to life here and now.
Macro and micro, universal and particular, belong in the same picture. I don’t care whether I zoom out or zoom in; the big picture and the small picture belong together.
Categories: Sharp Edges