Figuring

I have often described my mind as being like a murky fishbowl. I squeeze my eyes tight, plunge my hand in, and clutch at water in the hopes of grasping something. Often, when I pull that “something” out of the water, it is only tenuously related to the concept at hand. 

Sometimes I am caught off-guard, but I try not to falter. I lay my slippery concepts out on the floor, consider their forms, and imagine the connecting pieces. I call this process “figuring” and by using it, I’ve learned a lot about how we are all connected.

“Figuring” is a cyclical process, a spiralling loop of informal, iterative, experiential learning. If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you can create it, you can test it out. And if you can test it out, perhaps you can evaluate it. Evaluations provide data snapshots, and those images fill my fishbowl brain. The puzzle pieces don’t form a cohesive image, but they’re all there.


I love figuring. I’m captivated by its cyclical process - of puzzlement, exploration, making connections.  I would sit and figure all day long, if I could. 

I haven’t found the perfect career yet. My favourite jobs have been ones where I’m in charge of developing, analyzing, and refining processes. I have been a dancer, a visual artist, a curator, a writer, a children’s educator, a floral designer, and a production assistant, among other things. I am proud to call myself a Child & Youth Care Practitioner. 

But no matter which field I’m working in, I have concentrated on the “how” of social learning. 

How do visual artists develop their skills and ideas? How does 2D design translate into the 3D sphere? How does the corps de ballet come to move in unison? How do living materials change the process of design? 

My STEM education has been limited, so I haven’t had significant access to quantitative methods of evaluation. My “figuring” has mostly been qualitative. What I’m beginning to realize though, is that qualitative measurements are valid.

The word “figure” refers to the container itself. A “figure eight” is a shape, a path, a movement. It does not specify dimensions, but instead, form. The quantity is only relevant once the form has been established

I understood from an early age that human beings could take on many different forms, but what interests me most of all is the “how”. 

My question is this one: How does a person come to take on their form? Are there known shapes? Known paths that can be traced to achieve comprehension? 

How do you figure?

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