Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Katamari Principle

Sandy explained to me about The Katamari Principle. And, on further reflection, I see how it applies to many, many areas of living.

As she prepared to go to Costa Rica, to teach English to children, she wondered (with some anxiety) how she would teach them everything they needed to know. English is so complicated, so irregular, and teaching... a challenge.

Then, with calm, she explained The Katamari Principle.

[NOTE to Readers -- If you have not played Katamari on PS2 (or whatever), well, you will not understand this at all. Maybe the picture will help.]

The Katamari is a sticky ball. As you roll it over things (in the video game), it picks things up. It starts as a small, sticky ball. It can only pick up small items. It will pick up a paper clip, but roll right over an eraser. As you pick up small items (paper clips, thumb tacks, etc.) the ball grows larger. As it grows larger it can pick up larger items (erasers, juice boxes). It grows larger still, and you can pick up even larger items (buckets, dog houses). And as you pick things up, the ball grows larger, and can pick up houses, and factories, and elephants (who are never injured).

Well, teaching English, she explained... would be like that. She might be just teaching them simple, small things (like the paper clips in Katamari). But they need those things in order to (later) absorb larger things (like verb conjugation, or ... dog houses in Katamari). Yes. So Sandy discovered a peace and comfort in knowing that teaching those simple things, while not the entirety of their need for English understanding, is foundational, and essential for them to proceed to learn the more complex things.

And in that, she found comfort, knowing that she would be able to give them what they are ready for, even though there would still be much to learn.

And as I go through my days, with challenging situations galore, and so much to learn and do. I realize that, in many ways, I utilize The Katamari Principle.

When making a change, I sometimes need to implement it in small steps... because the audience (or me) can only handle those small (paper-clip-like) steps initially.

And often, in my work and life, I get frustrated because I (in the all American way) want complete results quickly (as shown on TV!). I try to reflect on The Katamari Principle, and realize that my results now are small, but that is what I can accomplish now. While they are small, they are important predecessors to larger results, which may take time (and many, many paper clips of learning).

The big problems of the world -- health care, peace, an end to genocides and ethnic cleansings and civil wars (whatever name you apply to mass extinctions of cultural groups) -- I can do less than a paper-clip level of impact on these problems. But, in the Katamari ball of life on our planet, the accumulation of paper-clip actions prepares the world for a larger action (eraser, dog house, factory). And collectively, we are building a Katamari world that may (one day) actually fulfill the larger tasks of peaceful, safe, healthy living.

Yes. The Katamari Principle. It's a good metaphor for life, for learning, and for action. It is an infrastructure that encourages patience, and recognizes the value of tiny, tiny, steps. Those tiny steps are the ones we can actually take to change our world.