Isn’t it satisfying when the answer to a puzzling situation occurs to you? You are just going about your normal daily routine, when the solution to a problem just pops into your brain. Frequently, the realization provides closure to some worry. Once in awhile, the notion is the beginning of the inventive process.
I wonder if Momofuku Ando said the Japanese equivalent of aha (ho) when he noticed people queuing up for noodle soup on a chilly day. His realization led to the invention of instant ramen soup.
One of the most famous aha moments in science happened when Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz had a dream about bizarre shapes moving around with snakes. Suddenly a snake clamped down on its own tail and whirled around. The chemist suddenly awoke and realized that the benzene molecule had a ring-like structure.
Most of human discoveries have been motivated by very real needs. Hence the idiomatic statement, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Supposedly the philosopher Plato conjured up this truism back in his heyday. Musician Frank Zappa must have enjoyed the moment in 1964 when he came up with the idea of naming his band “The Mothers of Invention.”
Then there are some people who dispute Plato’s time-worn observation. Someone flashed on the idea that it is adversity that brings about new ideas.
If you think about it, necessity is something we come up with when we are surviving comfortably. When we’re well-fed and safe from nature, we come up with ways to make life even more convenient. However, if you have ever been in a life-threatening situation, you reached for the nearest thing or idea that would save your life.
I’m guessing that the club was invented by some ancient person who was cornered by a predatory creature or a rival human and needed protection. Was there a large stick nearby that could be used as a weapon? There was no time to sit back and ponder the possible defensive qualities of long wooden objects. The impulse to grab the stick and strike out would have happened in an instant.
When necessity and adversity come together, we have the conditions for quick evolution. Suddenly, the status quo is seen as inadequate, the new object or new idea provides a more effective way of getting the job done or keeping us out of harm’s way.
Somehow, the mind arranges some of the various concepts that it already knows, into a new formation. When the final piece falls in place automatically, we feel the exhilaration of discovery. What is amazing is that this process all seems to happen in an instant.