Life, The Universe, and Paperfolding

They say that learning music or a second language from a young age has a huge impact on how a person grows up to see the world.  If origami had begun to rise in our culture earlier, ‘they’ would surely say the same of paperfolding as well.  And I have no doubt that my mind has been effected by the fact that I was reading origami diagrams earlier than I was reading English.

To people unfamiliar with the craft, it is easy to dismiss it as a children’s pastime, a novelty.  And to study the art as an art sounds as absurd as the first person to suggest devoting their life to arranging colors on a stretched cotton centuries ago, or the first to consider programming interactive software as an artistic medium decades ago, or the first to explore the depths of the rhythm on those animal skin drums in the history long lost…

Luckily, some of us know better.  We can see that the the art of folding has implications which build up like layers of paper – simple enough individually, but when compounded upon each other they quickly become an unassailable force.  We all know the schoolyard tale that a sheet of paper can’t be folded in half ten times, and if you’ve ever tried it then you know that it’s no myth.

Paperfolding has some pretty obvious ties to fields that are generally considered unrelated, like geometry and sculpture.  But the mechanics of folding are very fundamental in the universe.  Like fluid dynamics or structural logistics, the mechanics of how a surface can be contorted without being cut is a problem that nature has optimized for eons but humans have only just begun to identify.  That’s why techniques developed for artistic folding are now being utilized in fields spanning from the auto industry, to space exploration, to gene therapy, and beyond.

But the value of origami extends even further still, past the duality of art and science and right up to the point of a spiritual endeavor.  Like early music, early origami was strongly tied to religious ceremonies.  Being rewarded for precision without being punished for taking as much time as is required is a powerful tool for learning patience and self-awareness.  Attentive folding is very much a meditative act.

Even here, I have not nearly covered the scope of origami’s impact.  I could go on and on about the comparisons between step by step diagrams and crease patterns, the nuance of the differences in the papers being folded, major folding artists to celebrate, and too much more to list.  Luckily, I now have an entire blog to expound upon every last detail.

Enjoy your stay.

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