It’s high summer.The days are long, often warm and frequently hot.Thoughts turn to holidays, the chance to relax and meander through a part of the country you don’t know well.You look forward to simply going where the mood takes you.
Which, of course, is what our ancestors back in the distant centuries did all the time.It was not until 1828 (the first steam locomotive) that anyone could go faster than a racehorse.Most people, most of the time, walked at about 2 1.2 or 3 miles per hour.At walking speed you notice things that are hidden to a driver of a car; you hear sounds, smell scents, and watch the ‘gaite’ of other travellers in case of trouble.Our brains have evolved over millions of years to monitor, control and protect our identities within the limitations of our fragile bodies as we move from point A to point B by way of any interesting diversions that attract our attention.To meander is the balanced state of mind and body.Meandering, be it in the country or a shopping mall is simply what humans do well.
A meander is a geographical term describing the wide, sweeping, gentle banks in the lower course of a river.They are features that make you wonder why, given the very obvious energy of the river in its upper stages as it tumbles over waterfalls and cuts through gorges in its rush to the sea that it suddenly seems to lose its energy.
Water never flows in a straight line.It’s all to do with what is called ‘helicoidal flow.’Imagine for a moment in a laboratory constructing a long, straight channel across a bed of sand and then letting water flow in at one end.Stand back and watch.The water, rather than flowing smoothly, quickly becomes turbulent.It is all to do with friction.The water in contact with either bank, or along the bottom of the channel, is held back by friction and can’t go as fast as the water in the middle of the channel.Drop a piece of paper near to one bank and see how it is remorselessly pulled into the centre by the faster moving water and then caught up in an ebbing current and deposited on the other side.The water actually moves like a corkscrew, and by taking particles from one bank and mixing them up with other bits they get deposited on the other side.As the river reaches the flat ground near the sea it uses all its energy to create those beautiful, sinuous meanders… made up of an apparent chaotic muddle of bits and pieces drawn from many sources.
That is what helicoidal thinking is all about.Contrary to the best expectations of endless education systems learning is never linear, it is much more like the meandering river, shaped by helicoidal flow.Reflect on that.When you are gentle meandering and going where the mood takes you, you will frequently find that you solve mental problems which, while sitting uncomfortably at your desk, you just couldn’t work out.Get out there and start meandering.It’s good for the brain.