Saturday, January 2, 2010

Life as strategy vs. life as tactic

In the almost unbearably intense movie Cube, a group of strangers find themselves trapped in a 14x14x14 foot room that proves to be just one cube inside a much larger one. As they proceed up and down, left and right from room to room, they discover fatal booby traps and mathematical clues that may help them find a way out.

For me, the movie is about mindset. Some of the prisoners want to stop and think about their predicament. Who would have the means to build this structure? How would it be constructed? And what purpose could running people through the cube serve? They believe that answering these meta questions will help them develop a strategy for escape.

Other prisoners believe that the cube, like all things in life, must be finite. Keep plunging in one direction and they are bound to hit the edge - and an escape hatch - eventually. Pondering bigger questions is at best a waste of time, and at worst will make you miss something that is right in front of you. Like General George S. Patton said, "Good tactics can save even the worst strategy."

I haven't seen Cube in 10 years, but I think about it all the time. Nearly every time I hit an obstacle, I remember that I can look for higher meaning or solve the puzzle in front of me. I can ask, "Why?" Or I can determine, "What and how?"

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