Wednesday, February 15, 2012

orthogonality and good craic

i read an article about the santa fe institute that has me once again, in fits of longing for intellectual company. founded back in the 80s, they have created an intellectual environment par excellence. they have a number of scientists, researchers and humanists in residence at all times and every conversation that takes place must be an interesting one. their founding premise is "that intellectual vitality arises from people interacting across a wide range of disciplines." they have even coined a term for it: orthogonality.

i think i have long known the value of orthogonality and even used it in my work - there is great value in bringing together people who don't look on the surface like they have much in common and seeing what kind of sparks fly. i've had quite a lot of workshops where people were skeptical of the group i brought together - from ship captains to cartoonists to flash developers to learning specialists to gospel singers - but sparks always flew and magic ALWAYS happened. so there IS something to orthogonality.

in the article, novelist cormac mccarthy, who spends a lot of time at the SFI, says he does so because of the "good craic." that's another thing i'm craving - good craic. craic is a gaelic word meaning lively chat or conversation. husband and i have great conversations on a daily basis, but it would be nice to have some others, some fresh blood, so to speak. let's face it, after 15 years of knowing one another and having these discussions, husband and i are pretty much on the same page.

a friend sent me an email about a conversation group she started - it features wine (always a plus) and meets approximately monthly. each member submits an article that the other members read and then they get together and discuss over a glass or two of wine - sort of like a book club. hers is more career/business-oriented, whereas i think i'm looking for something quite philosophical. it doesn't need to be a formal think tank or have fellowships and high-powered macarthur grant recipients like they have in santa fe - i just need intellectual stimulation and input. good craic.


Anonymous said...

I think that this new-to-me term, orthogonality, is the basis of a liberal arts education. Or at least that is how I understood the concept of liberal arts when I was in college.

I agree with the idea that putting a variety of people together on a project gets better results than putting like-minded individuals together. Sadly, many people who I know resist such groups claiming that sameness is what gets things done.

I disagree with them, and now have a snazzy term to use when explaining my point of view. Very interesting post. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Oh it's amazing what good craic can achieve. It lifts the spirts, rejunivates and turns your day (or your world) around. Bring on the craic!

Missouri Bend Paper Works said...

What a great word...orthogonality! It does perfectly describe that so important exchange between disciplines. I once heard a definition of creativity as making a connection between two completely different things or ideas....what a hotbed of creativity in a setting dedicated to orthogonality! I'm craving such an environment and am in need of some good craic as well. Hope you find it!

will said...

Right now we're in a stir fry or tagine cycle ... so, if you and you husband are interested, come by any evening. Dinner is usually between 7:30 and 8. Just never know what the dinner discussion topic will be.

Elizabeth said...

Another blogcamp?!?

Numinosity said...

I'm desperately out of practice with craic, don't know if I ever developed that aspect of my intellect. I tend to rely on wit and banter by default I suppose. Still looking inward to learn why I seem to shrink from exercising my voice that way. Something to work on the next 50 years maybe.
xoxo Kim

lynn bowes said...

This is the basis for our local 'craft camp' and I love it. We all have different areas of interest and, while I have no desire to switch media, I do have a desire to broaden my perspective on how I approach my craft.

Do we all live too far apart to give it a whirl? SantaFe shouldn't have the corner on craic and orthogonality!

:: lynn ::

Kelly said...

Great Post - but a simple aside.
Your photos are transporting!!!
Every time!! Utter photographic perfection!

DahnStarr said...

Reminds me of telephone conversations with my girlfiend that would go along the lines of: GF - "talk to me!" Me -"about what?" GF - "anything! I don't care. Just talk to me like a grownup!" GF spent the day alone with four little ones. All these years later and we still have those days of wanting 'grownup' conversations.

Anne said...

I couldn't agree more! My closest friends have always been friends who studied and in fields other than my own: philosophy, classics, biochem. S is the sole exception; even so, although he's a physicist, his kind of physics is different from mine.

Craic was my favorite thing about UofC, and it's the main reason I miss undergrad. These days my orthogonal friends are scattered around the world, and I desperately miss the deep, humming contentment that comes from getting a smallish group of interesting people together to enjoy a meal and some wine and let the conversation flow.