THINK v. feel

IBM’s THINK signs in many languages

When I was young, we had a plaque hanging up in our house that said “THINK” in bold block letters. It was my dad’s, and it came originally from IBM. I don’t know how he got it, seeing as how he never worked for IBM; he vaguely remembers something about an antique auction. But the sign itself always struck me as kind of cool.

In 1914, the founder of IBM, Thomas Watson, Sr., first coined what would become IBM’s longstanding slogan, “THINK”: a call to action to employees to pay attention and use their noggins. Since then, the company has named a zillion things after this five letter word (including the ThinkPad) and made signs like my dad’s in many languages throughout many decades.

I’ve tried to snag this sign from my dad several times, but with no success. He’s not parting with it. I’ve told him he should treat it better, seeing as how he has it perched precariously on top of a pile of crap on his work table in the garage. I told him I thought a more appropriate place would be inside the house, in a place of honor—keeping guests on their toes in the foyer, for example, or serving as a gentle reminder to turn off the burners in the kitchen. Or he could always reunite it with its friends, the books, on the living room bookcase.

I really like it, but $165??

So fine, I figured, I’ll just buy another one. In this day of eBay, it shouldn’t be too hard; somebody somewhere must be cleaning out their dad’s garage. Well, it may not be hard to purchase an old THINK sign, but it is expensive. Turns out signs like my dad’s sell on eBay for as much as $165. Hmmm. New plan needed. And then . . . that’s it—I can make one!

That idea never went anywhere, until this weekend. I was given the gift of my own personal THINK session: 28 hours of uninterrupted think time, as a matter of fact. My oldest child was at his dad’s, and my husband took our younger two to visit his mom, which left the dog and me all to ourselves. For 28 hours. Did you catch that part?

Saturday, after everyone left, I spent an hour learning tai chi off of You Tube. I sat cross-legged in the grass in my backyard, the sun warming my face and the grass tickling my ankles. I researched handmade Japanese paper on the Internet. I ate leftover curry and rice, and for dessert, dark chocolate. I watched Erin Brockovich on Lifetime for the sixth time, and then strained my wine-dulled brain to keep up with the 500 or so characters in Robert Altman’s Gosford Park.

I guess you might say I did a whole lot of nothing. But it’s not nothing, is it? Doing nothing is an important part of being creative, and yet as a mother with a mountain (literally, you’ll start an avalanche if you look at it sideways) of dirty laundry waiting for her behind door #3, it has at times been hard to grant myself that freedom.

But not this weekend. I had just finished reading a short interview with Tim Burton in The Atlantic, and he said he tries to devote time each day to “sit and do nothing—stare off into space or doodle or whatever—just be in my own head.” Each day! So, with Tim Burton as my inspiration, I was determined to ignore the laundry and enjoy the silence.

Sunday morning, when the dog woke me up to go out, I could hear the THINK sign project calling to me. Over the years, the idea of making the THINK sign had evolved in my head. It occurred to me, if I’m making this thing, I can make it however I want. I could even change the THINK. Not that I’m anti-thinking or anything. But thinking already gets a lot of respect in this culture. Maybe I should be devoting my creative energies to thinking’s less-liked other half, feeling.

Does it strike anyone else as wrong, wrong, wrong that if something is not rational, it must therefore be irrational? That there is no other, non-negative word to describe the opposite of rational? Thinking and reason are our only options if we don’t want to be put on the crazy bus. But what about feeling, intuition, creative impulse? These beautiful notions, while celebrated (in theory) at the concept level, are not always supported at the level of the individual. (This is said by the woman who has been known on occasion to ignore her mountain of laundry to work on a blog post, or cry in the corner.)

my feel sign

So on Sunday I decided to create the THINK sign’s softer side: the feel sign. A feminine, rounded shape; an eclectic, floral patterned background; warm red, lowercase letters—all working together to provide an oddly sane and yet irrational alternative to THINK.

I was all set to hang my new feel sign up in the corner of my bedroom where I have my little creative “nook.” But then a happy event occurred: I told my dad about this blog post (I asked to scan a picture of him in front of his THINK sign back in the 70s), and he decided that my house would be a better home for his sign than his garage after all. (Personally, I think it was the threat of putting proof of those sideburns on the Internet that helped him act so generously.)

harmony on a bookshelf . . . for now anyway

So now THINK and feel can face off in person in my house. I’m thinking that, with time, they might even learn to get along. To help them work out their differences, I’ve decided to put them on the same shelf. I’ll give them their own space, sure; I’m not about boxing anybody in. But I figure they ought to be able to cohabitate here peacefully. They have 72 inches by 48 inches of shelf to work with after all. Please. My husband and I, THINK and feel personified, manage cohabitation just fine under one roof, and we walk and talk. Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe I should put these signs in separate rooms.

© Amy Daniewicz

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