Why Was Thinking Inside the Box Such a Bad Thing?

Joe Luca


Photo from Pixabay By Peggy_Marcos

Perhaps Social Media is to blame. It is responsible for most of our society’s ills, isn’t it? A dark swirling primordial place where truth wanders in at its own peril and disinformation feels right at home. Where new meanings are given to old words, as we troll the unsuspecting and use anonymity to shield us from retribution.

And yet, surely, there is good to be found there; truth, not wholly altered. Images, pure and filled with light?

In the past, we marched slowly from one age to another. From one enlightened period to another, with careful consideration and endless discussions along the way.


Ideas evolved slowly. Opinions, like stone carvings took many blows before becoming something understandable. Change was always uncomfortable, and never hastened for its own merits. For as often as not, it came dangerously close to altering the status quo – thus creating uncertainty. Shifting the boundaries and letting in those that did not belong.

At the same time, allowing in questions that would inevitably have to be answered, and with those answers, came further change and before you knew it – everything and everyone was different.

Today, change is mass-produced, like Cheetos sliding off the assembly line into neat multi-colored packages. No longer a line of demarcation between evolving right and wrong. No longer an acceptable space between two warring ideas. Change was the easy to see and distinguishable fly-in-the-ointment. The line, that once passed, could not be undone. Today, change is now more nuanced. More fluid.

Like an ever-evolving language, we see change as something that shifts our attention. Pulls it off something that’s old and tired and allows us to be impressed with something new and shiny.


Inside the box is where change used to live. Slowly aging. Slowly moving, like a sloth in a fire drill. Endlessly placing one foot in front of another without really intending to get anywhere. Without any internal desire to alter what we viewed as our life. If it’s always been done one way, then there must be a reason to keep on doing it. Change inside the box was like wheels on a fish. An interesting concept if everything that we knew was different, but since it isn’t, why bother.

Thinking inside the box often meant thinking like our parents and grandparents did. Using old ideas and even older meanings to define new concepts. Cutting edge and ready to blow our socks off.

While outside the box meant change. Real change. Like putting Nutella on our French fries. Taking old concepts and altering them to such a degree that they were unrecognizable and, in the process, – retooling the world around us. Jackson Pollock-ing the hell out of technology. Making it scream as we reconfigured the ball, not to bounce, but reposition itself in new locations.


Facebook, 20 years ago would be weird, unexciting. Unnatural even, in that who wants to spend an inordinate amount of time interacting with people we don’t know? Exchanging ideas, and recipes and photos of our tan lines and Lipo scars in an effort to reinvent who we are and more importantly, how we should be viewed.

And yet … half the world now engages in an endless pursuit of change, online, on phones and in an ongoing struggle to reinvent ourselves before we become the person, we started out to be.

Outside the box, is a happening place. A cool, decidedly ‘new-school’ perspective, where fresh ideas, not only come into existence amazingly fast, but kick your ass on the way out. It’s where people should live if they want to keep up. Stay relevant. Be considered.

Inside that box is where the past lives. With doilies on the table tops, tea cozies wrapping old porcelain tea pots and people, well, where people moved more slowly, causing change to move more slowly. Which in turn, caused pain to be endured longer than it ever should have been.

Therefore, those who lived inside the box, were, villains in a way. Interfering at best, with the inevitable advancement of technology and at worst, defending the prejudices and injustices that were left in place.

How, who we are and what we do to survive and create, ever got compressed into the confines of a box – is beyond my ken. Perhaps it was an effort on someone’s part to show the differences in people. To show that not all of us are alike. But as with all such shortcuts, one side of this proposition, had to be right and the other – wrong.

So, those inside the box became a sub-set of humanity that lagged behind. Falling further behind the curve of evolving ideas, in how man should live – especially with one another. They became noted for “old” thinking; the use of faded ideas, terms and perspectives in addressing modern problems.

On one hand, perhaps they’re right. Thinking outside the box, meant taking risks. Not looking at how to use a wheel to propel something forward but to innovate a whole new form of movement altogether. Thinking beyond the constraints of ideas fixed by those who originally brought them to light, while still hoping to keep control over them.

And yet, on the other hand, perhaps they’re wrong. Because, innovation and technology became wedded early on and set the pace for change – all change – in our society. Faster, smaller, cheaper became the hallmarks of business success and the glowing ring that many entrepreneurs strove to grasp.

But when it comes to the humanities; faster, smaller and cheaper are out of place. Man cannot be assembly-lined into conforming. We do not evolve according to blueprint and marketing analysis. If efficiencies and economy of scale were designed for mankind, then our music and art would echo with the sounds of gears turning and pistons hissing in endless production – but they do not.


The box is a metaphor. This was no great surprise. No one really envisioned people actually being within them, content with their uniformity. No one saw another’s thinking as originating inside a finite space, forever confined to mediocrity because they could not move beyond its edges.

And yet, we have begun to relegate ideas and actions that we dislike or disagree with to this imaginary place.

“You have to think outside the box, Leo, or you’ll get left behind.”

Our simple metaphor, like many others before it, soon took on a life of its own. Becoming a real place, an awkward judgmental place, where change moved sedately, intentionally.

Perhaps technology and its race towards faster, smaller and cheaper is a righteous endeavor. A means-to-an-end, that needs the freedom and endless space to live and breathe new horizons into existence. To make them more approachable and usable to the masses.

But what of those remaining inside the box? What is their lot?

Perhaps inside the box, like inside the lines, is an imaginary fault. A flaw attached to nothing in particular. A way of making one side sound brighter, smarter, and more in sync with the rest of the world. When in fact, it’s simply part of the same whole.

In the same way that up is no more exciting than down. Without one, the other loses context and ceases to have a distinction. Ceases to be something one side can wield against the other.

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To inform, entertain, enlighten and otherwise engage in the age-old practice of storytelling. To be part of the process of keeping all of us informed on what is happening in the world around us and perhaps, if I do my job well enough, bring about change in the way we control our own lives and make the decisions that will impact our future and those of the people we care about.

Los Angeles, CA

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