Think Outside the Box!

Posted on Monday, 5 November 2012 and filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through theRSS 2.0 . You can leave a response or trackback to this entry from your site

Problems that require solutions are a feature of our everyday life. We encounter them during our daily routines and solve most of them routinely, with hardly a thought - Where did I put those car keys? Others require more effort on our part, and for some problems, we may need to seek the help and co-operation of others. But, very occasionally, we experience a problem that seems to transcend all reason; it just doesn't seem possible that it could have actually happened: So how on earth can a solution be found?

At such times, we need to rid ourselves of our preconceptions, prejudices and rigid mindsets and allow ourselves 'to think outside of the box'. By stubbornly sticking to ingrained beliefs, we can become the victim of unwittingly hiding the solution from ourselves.

One such classic problem, that literally stopped myself and a friend of mine in our tracks, is the topic of this story.

It was the middle of winter. Snow was deep on the ground and a climbing friend and I thought we would set ourselves the challenge of crossing one of the most isolated moors in the UK - Bleaklow Moor. It carries its nature in its name.

The UK cannot offer hiking challenges on the scale of the European Alps or Himalayas, but the challenge that day was particularly appealing because of the fog. Visibility was no more than 100metres. Climbers refer to such conditions as a 'whiteout'; when the ground and the sky are indistinguishable from each other and there is no horizon upon which to take a compass bearing.

On reaching the start of the moor we came across two fence posts, seemingly marking the last outposts of humanity. If there was an established track between these two posts it was well buried under the blanket of snow. It was evident to us that no-one else had passed this way recently.

We were both experienced navigators, but it fell to me to be in charge of the compass. I set a course from the map, intended to take us across the moor to a road. I allowed for a margin of error to either the left or right due to the fog. We expected the journey to take just a few hours.

During the next hour or so, we passed through a Christmas wonderland of snow-covered trees and crossed a stream that was struggling not to give up its liquid state. We also traversed countless peat bog gullies that famously characterize this particular moor - they make up a maze of natural trenches; squelchy ascents and descents in summer and the cause of sudden surprises when buried under snow during winter.

Eventually, we came across our first indication of other human activity; two sets of footprints in the snow. They were heading in our direction so we followed them and very soon they passed between a couple of fence posts. WAIT A MINUTE. Didn't we see these fence posts before? Not possible! But they did look familiar. Not possible! We had been walking for about an hour already; probably covering about 4km. I had been constantly referring to the compass to follow a strict bearing; 10 degrees west of magnetic north.

Well there was one way to find out if we had been here before. We carefully checked the soles of our boots for size and pattern. We discovered, to our amazement, that there was an exact match with the ones in the snow. THEY WERE OUR FOOTPRINTS!

We stood there in disbelief. This was surreal. This could not possibly have happened. We had rigorously followed a compass bearing.

Suspicion then fell upon the compass itself. My friend tested it by walking as far away from the fence posts as he could without loosing sight of them. He took a bearing on one of them then moved position and again took a bearing. All readings were as he would expect. There was nothing wrong with the compass. THIS WAS SURREAL. What world were we living in?

We knew that there were areas in the UK that have some anomalous magnetic activity but nowhere to the extent that a compass could point north, west, south and then east and walk you in a circle. We put ourselves through thought processes worthy of a Monty Python sketch; trying to make sense of nonsense.

Finally, I noticed that if I took a compass bearing on one of the posts with my left held, it gave a different result from if I used my right hand. SURREAL. But at least it was admissible evidence. My friend had no such similar problem. His hands showed no particular favoritism towards the compass bearing. So, the problem lay with me then.

After much 'messing about' I discovered that the compass needle was actually attracted towards my left leg - more specifically my trouser pocket. I kept my Swiss army knife in there but nothing else. It soon became evident that my knife, unknown to me, had somehow, at some time in the past, become strongly magnetized.

On the walk, I had consistently used my left hand to hold the compass and consistently held it at waist level, close to my leg. It was due to the frequency of readings taken that we had actually walked in a circle and not just ended up to the left of our intended destination. My degree of sanity was no longer under suspicion! So, we set off again. My friend was happy for me to hold the compass as long as he could take charge of my knife (mental note made to get it back from him!).

So, an exhilarating day, with plenty of exercise, both mental and physical, solving problems along the way. We also learnt to allow check for items carried that may possibly affect a compass.




Copyright © 2012 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources

3 Responses for “ Think Outside the Box!”

  1. Nancy T Williams says:

    If we are too stubborn, we normally don't get far. That's life. But human beings are so rigid in their ways. We have this ego that we are right all the time. Sometimes all it takes is to set aside this ego to see the clear picture.

     
  2. Maurice Thurman says:

    A very true observation Nancy and very clearly stated. We are students from cradle to grave and ego has no place in the curriculum.

     
  3. Sammy says:

    I'm new to this site, but I love the stories very much. They're all very uplifting. The section on natural health is very informative too. Kudos.

     

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