Usually a topic for my blog post enters my consciousness with a resounding “here I am” thud of clarity. I typically spend a few weeks ruminating on it and then a few days writing. But this month was a struggle. Topics arrived but none stuck; the cycle of topic to rumination just wasn’t happening. The clock was ticking... Committed to my monthly post, I turned to a deck of cards.
In 1975 Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt published their first deck of Oblique Strategies cards. These creative geniuses and friends were working on similarly inspired projects and brought them together into a single deck of cards subtitled, “Over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas”. According to Brian Eno, in his interview with Charles Amirkhanian, (KPFA-FM Berkeley, Feb 2, 1980), “The function of the Oblique Strategies was, initially, to serve as a series of prompts which said, “Don’t forget that you could adopt *this* attitude,” or “Don’t forget you could adopt *that* attitude.”
A few years ago, a colleague told me about these cards; that they can be helpful to expand your thinking and deal with mind blocks and roadblocks, creative and engineering alike. I didn’t know much about either of the two legends (Eno & Schmidt) and had never heard of these cards. So, I did some research: there were limited printings of the original signed edition, editions two through four, and six. These printings are no longer available for sale.* Each edition is slightly different, and one (4th edition) was created for private distribution only. But, the Fifth Edition, that one was available and at an affordable price.
It took a while for the cards to arrive from the UK, but as soon as they arrived I began to explore them. I use the cards at least once a week; at the end of my staff meeting we close by choosing a card and reflecting on its message. Sometimes when we are stuck on an issue, struggling or frustrated by something we will pick a card. Focusing on the “dilemma” presented by the chosen card forces an exploration that lightens the grip of the struggle, informs it from another angle, creates a shift in perspective, opens up new possibilities.
So, here I was, stuck, not finding a resonant topic for this post, and I pulled this card:
So, here are some musings informed by this “dilemma”:
The clock is ticking, what to write? The order of things, changing? Time is strange, our minds distort it. Sometimes we think time is moving fast, other times it feels like it’s moving slow. But the clock, sun and earth, moon and stars move consistently at the same pace, tick tock, seconds, minutes, hours, days, months. What am I spending my time on? Does that change the way I experience time? When I’m doing things that are “on purpose” and “in alignment” what does time feel like? I can spend more time doing it (like writing this blog post into the wee hours). Energizing and expansive, time is moving fast and there seems to be a lot of it an yet I find myself wishing I had more. When I’m not “on purpose” what happens to time? Time slows down, drag and exhausts, but it feels like I don't have enough time, it's all eaten up. It’s all distorted. I can distort time the way I want through powerful choices making it feel as expansive and energetic as possible. I can actively Distort Time by using more of it for the things I love by doing less of the things I don’t and creating a balance that energizes and inspires.
The Oblique Strategies objective is a bit like that of the principle of Balance I use coaching. Oblique refers to any case other than the normative. When a client is stuck, we explore perspectives, moving from the initial perspective (normative) through alternative perspectives, (not normative) “slanting our thinking” a little more each time, looking in new directions to find a resonant and supportive perspective from which to move forward.
How does considering the dilemma "Distorting Time" move you?
*The vintage cards might be found on Ebay -$1,800 - and a reproduced version of the private distribution edition (the fourth) for over $400 through MoMA! Here is a link for the affordable fifth edition of Oblique Strategies Cards.