One of my recent pastimes is the ancient Japanese art of paper folding known as origami. Origami is based on mathematical principles. Like math, origami can be very simple, or it can be extremely rich and complex.
I begin with a flat square of paper before me and try to interpret two-dimensional instructions from a book into a three-dimensional model. I fold, unfold, crease, reverse fold, follow all the instructions to the letter… until I get to a step that befuddles me. I sit and stare at it for 10… 15… 20 minutes, trying to figure out what do to next. I look at the next step, looking for clues. I try this. I try that.
Sometimes, I can figure out what to do and move on, feeling a small sense of triumph. If I can finish the piece and have it look like what I am trying to make, I am especially proud because I know this is the product of some concentrated effort.
If not, it ends up as a crumpled ball on my table. In the end, however, it is not the final shape that is important, but the journey I take in attempting to achieve my goal: While I am busy folding, pinching, creasing, teasing and cajoling the paper, my mind is preoccupied with this and nothing else. Origami is, for me, a tactile form of meditation that keeps my unsettled mind focused and my restless hands busy.
If I manage to complete a form with a recognizable shape, then that is incredibly gratifying, but it is not necessary. It is, indeed, the journey, and not the destination wherein the reward lies.