How did we get into this box?

When I tell people what I’m doing, I get a lot of, “Wow, good for you for thinking outside the box.” Some give it a ‘poor bastard’ tone; “This kid can’t figure out how to comply to societal norms so he has to pretend he’s ‘Into the Wild’ and disconnect from reality.” Others are really pumped and truly believe I’ll find the rabbit hole that leads outside of the box…the box where they, and the rest of society, live.
Well, of course there are some who are worried about my ‘extreme’ vision of wanting to disconnect and question if I’ll ever return to society as if I’m stepping off the flat earth and delving deep into the depths of…of…of what? They don’t even know. It’s a land outside of the box nobody dares to visit.
But the whole ‘think outside the box’ comment is interesting to me considering how many people have used it. So, I wonder what it means to each person. What is the box? Is your home the box? Is your city the box? Is this country the box? How about the universe? Are there multiple boxes? To Doug Stowe, a woodworker, “To think outside the box, to be creative does not mean discovery from completely out of the blue, but is most often accomplished by utilizing known relationships between things…”
I like that because as I head out on my journey I realize that the box could be the universe and I’m simply re-learning the relationships between those things I already know exist but that I have never known on an experiential level. This reminds me of the fundamental premise of Permaculture. Doug goes on to say that these (relationships) are, “The kind of relationships we discover through the use of our own hands.” Again, quite àpropos considering I’m about to dig my hands into the earth for a re-education.

Another common phrase following the ‘think outside the box’ is that ‘another door will open’. Again, I’m intrigued by how we perceive our own reality. We live in a box. This box has doors, yet, few open them until one closes and we have no choice but to try another door. And so, when someone opens a door before one has closed, they are put in this category of revolutionary or insane. “What are you doing opening that door? This one hasn’t closed yet?” So the question remains, as Austin Powers so eloquently questions, ‘How did I get into this nutshell?’ Except that in our case we are talking about a box. How did we get into the box? More importantly, what purpose does the box serve? Is the box all the societal norms that are etched into our minds since birth? Should we simply accept ‘…these truths to be self-evident?’ or should we open a new door and ask questions?
There’s no doubt in my mind, and most would agree, that public education, is a box with few doors. However, nowhere is more prevalent the analogy of ‘opening the doors to the world’ because after all, with an education all is possible. The discussion of what is education is an entirely different box so for now we have to be content looking around for doors. I say, the fewer the doors you see, the better. It means you are starting to live outside of the boxes that keep your mind trapped, believing you have to do certain things just because that’s what’s been done.
And so I leave you with lyrics from Eddie Vedder that he wrote for the movie “Into the Wild”. He may not have the answers but he poses some good questions:
“There’s those thinking, more-or-less, less is more
But if less is more, how you keeping score?
Means for every point you make, your level drops
Kinda like you’re starting from the top
You can’t do that…”


About Carlos Bill

Carlos is a dynamic public school teacher and Principal with professional development experience in 2nd language acquisition, educational technology, and classroom management. He also is Co-Founder of Travel to Learn, an organization dedicated to teaching people how to live a truly regenerative lifestyle with respect to health, relationships, and the natural environment. TTL does this through public speaking engagements, workshops, and travel programs.
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5 Responses to How did we get into this box?

  1. Susan Walter says:

    Wow. That may take several re-readings. I live in a box, created by decisions I have made. Personal, and professional. Because I married the man I did, many doors are now closed to me. However, marrying this man has opened many doors I didn’t know exist. I envy your freedom to choose, and yet I am closing in on an age of ‘use it or loose it’, but free time to use it is minimal.
    Very complicated issues. Please keep your blog going. I have very little else challenging my brain. And, of course, I enjoy your experiences vicariously. I am excited about your new direction. Go for it, Carlos!

    • Carlos Bill says:

      You are right in that when doors close, others open so a perfectly positive way to look at life. And I don’t know if I can agree with your ‘use it or loose’ considering you hiked in and out of the Grand Canyon with me! You are truly inspirational.

  2. colin says:

    I totally relate to the metaphor of the box. In fact, it was largely because I wanted to get outside the box that I explored the option of moving to Nicaragua and starting a backpacker hostel. Especially because George Bush was in charge of the box at the time ;-) Actually, he was fighting and disregarding the rest of the world in order to maintain our comfortable box (which, as most know, makes up 5% of the world population, but consumes 25% of its resources).

    Then I got a job offer to do international development and I thought I would have the “best of both worlds”. Recently, however, I feel that the job/life has not really allowed me to experience life outside the box. I did feel that in the peace corps and somewhat when working as a fishing guide.

    So, I am intrigued by your bold move. It really is courageous, I believe, since life is not as predictable and cushy as “outside the box.” Uncharted territory. I plan to do something similar – before I am old and grey and retired ;-)

  3. Melissa says:

    Bravo! Until you do something bold and brave and ‘different’, you can’t really understand just how fearful most people are of doing something bold and brave and ‘different’. Mark is going through this same thing, as he is about to leave his job of 6 years. Many people immediately ask, “But what will you DO NEXT? For a JOB???” It’s funny how worried other people are about it when neither of us is worried in the least. I’d be much more worried if my husband continued to do something that he was no longer passionate about and that adds loads of stress to his and our life. On the flip side, so many people GET IT! They’re so excited for him and understand how important it is to Follow Your Bliss. We only get one life…I think…well, I don’t know, but whatever, we have this life, so go for it! Montana has some amazing WWOOFing opportunities, by the way! ;) Best to you!

    • Carlos Bill says:

      Back at you Mel! Everyone tells me it’s the time to go since I don’t have anything tying me down but you have a family so Bravo to you and Mark! Keep in touch please. I want to hear about your experiences as well.

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