Open or Closed?


Above is an etching depicting Johannes Hevelius‘s rooftop observatory, from Machinae Coelestis Pars Prior [and Posterior] [Celestial machines, or astronomical instruments] , 1673-79. Source.

When I leave colleagues’ offices at my job, for those that have offices, I ask, “open or closed?” They have a choice – a single word that may require a little extra expenditure of energy from me as I go. The privilege is in being able to shut the door. The rest of us in cubes can’t shut anything out.


I’ve had two different conversations in the past couple weeks about the diverging paths that I and those I’ve spoken with have observed in our elders. There seems to be a choice at some point, though of course that’s a false dichotomy since many people simply continue as they have before… But anyhow, this admittedly false choice seems to lie between openness and expansion with time, or a shuttering, a closing in and a blocking out.

Living in New York I do feel the exhaustion of overstimulation, like many people do, I think. It’s not a serious problem or anything worth complaining about at length, but it is a thing in many cities, particularly one as full as this one. You have to vociferously protect pockets of time, particularly if you sway introverted, for processing, for reducing stimulation, for limiting external inputs.

But for me that limiting, those moments of quiet inchoate indexing, are a part of a dogged strategy to remain open, or what I hope is a dogged strategy – an aspirational openness.

Because some of the elders I admire most are those that, in their own way, and not in all areas (because few people of any age can manage that), maintain an openness to new experiences and perspectives. Like all humans, they are imperfect and contradictory, and it’s not that they entirely lack cynicism or guile, but they are willing. I hope to live long enough on this planet to emulate that embrace.

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