Back in the heat of the summer, I shared with a couple work buds a quote which I found pretty insightful. Delivered to my browser’s home page via iGoogle, it was by Albert Einstein:

No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.

When the quote appeared on my screen, I suppose it spoke to me because a group of us at work were about to dive into a series of creative problem-solving exercises. We’d been given an advertising/branding concept to which had been attached a specific visual element or two, and it was our task to translate it into practical design guidelines/templates/whatever. While each of us saw strengths in the “givens,” we also saw challenges.

So reading the quote made me feel better about those challenges. We were bringing to the table a new consciousness.

Instinctively, I also saw a different type of meaning in the quote — that, if you have a problem of your own creation, your ability to solve it will be greater if you can somehow look at it with new eyes. Gain a new perspective, change your position to view a new angle. Bring to the table a new consciousness.

My previously mentioned work buds, however, stared at me blankly when I explained this to them. They’d liked the quote when I recited it to them, but apparently they’d translated “consciousness” as a separate person or group, an entity outside of the problem-creating source. Their interpretation: No problem can be solved by the same person who created it.

They seemed to see my point after a minute or so, but the enthusiasm for my interpretation was a bit lukewarm. Their reaction has hung with me, prompting an echo of a question to tickle my brain now and then. Is it too Pollyanna-ish of me to believe that someone can so radically change their own perspective enough to solve their own problems?

I’m not saying it would be easy…..and maybe it would be impossible for people unable to break free of “self” for a minute or two. But it sure paints a bleak picture. It’s an image of the masses running on a supergiant hamster wheel, all of them fruitless disciples of one self-help discipline after another. All destined for ultimate failure, despite their fleeting light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel moments. They’re zombie pale. They’re wearing dark, dingy grey that has yellowed from prolonged exposure to the blinking, buzzing florescent lights above their heads. Remember the opening sequences of Tom Hanks’ Joe Versus the Volcano? It’s that sort of vibe, this bleak picture in my head.

Well, recently I decided to google Einstein’s quote in order to understand its context. One site used the quote in support of prayer. Many sites used it as part of a call-to-action for humanitarian causes. Other sites, most of which seemed a little more scholarly than the rest, had slightly different wordings. Then…payoff! I found several sites which included the next sentence that came out of Einstein’s mouth:

No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.

Cool. I still don’t know the context in which he uttered the sentences, but apparently he did NOT mean to imply that people couldn’t solve problems of their own making. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.

I feel better.

By the way, I put sex in the title just to make this entry more intriguing. Sorry. It was wrong to tease you like that.