Sometimes I think that research is more like mining than maze-solving. Like art (I imagine), the gems that we are able to bring forth are buried inside of us. Each of us stands on a vast mineral deposit, the accumlated layers of our experiences and our unconscious foundation. By our 30’s, we’ve learned to grow a harvest in our top-soil, but we’ve also had a chance to dig deeper and get a sense of that wealth. One of the challenges of life is to ensure that we get to keep digging under our own feet.
Some people pan for precious metals; others plan out whole quarries of ore. Research techniques (and philosophical modes, literary critique, drawing technique, etc.) allow us to mine at will, but each works best on certain kinds of stone. You can dig shallow, and strike oil or gas able to propell you through the economic world. You can dig deep, and get unique and precious gems, metamorphized by the heat and pressure of the unconscious mind. If you dig too deep, you hit an inpenetrable bedrock.
Me, I look for geodes. Each of these rough stones contains a cavity filled with crystals. You can tell a geode by its face, but you never know what’s inside until you break it open. I don’t like throwing away research projects, even if I don’t have time for them, because I still want to break them open. On the other hand, I know that the more I dig, the more geodes I can find. And so, I can choose to leave gems in the ground, waiting at unforetold depths.