Longing for moments 'inside the box'

‘To design in a good way is to put a giant box around yourself and focus on one thing', said industrial designer Chris Bangle in an interview in Het blad (NRC, May 2021) The interviewer commented – tongue-in-cheek, I guess: ‘To think in the box, instead of out of the box.’

Reading this gave me a bittersweet feeling. Little by little we are allowed to meet each other again in and outside our offices and teaching spaces. But for months now I, as many others do, was and still am to sit in a real-life giant box, right at the kitchen table of my home in Utrecht. I yearn to get out of the house and be reunited with my colleagues and students, without the mediation of my laptop screen.

On the other hand, to sit in the box deeply resonates with me in a positive way. I am utterly happy when I am ‘in the box’, in the sense of being in a state of deep concentration for a prolonged period of time. This is what drew me to academia in the first place: to exercise the privilege of unravelling complex issues and taking the hours to do so.

This past year, especially when the schools closed down, these ‘in the box’ moments were rare. By having ample digital conversations with people in and outside Utrecht University, I was assured I am not the only one who was deprived of these happy moments of solitude. Therefore, I would very much encourage Utrecht University leaders to constitute and finance full focus ‘in the box’ moments for the coming year, such as writing retreats. We might even call it: ’in the box fellowships'. Because sometimes, bright minds are brighter in the box.