"A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind.''
That astute observation is attributed to none other than genius Albert Einstein.
Isn't it odd how genius is so misunderstood?
Every time the word filters through the protective walls of scrap paper mounded about our desks at work that we are about to receive a visit from corporate headquarters, our bosses worry us into cleaning up our workspaces. Why? Do we want corporate to think that we are not working?
I have a T-shirt that proclaims ''Organized people are too lazy to look for their stuff.'' Do we want corporate to think we are slackers AND lazy both? Not judging by my workspace.
A co-worker named Steve once observed that ''an empty surface is an abomination of nature.''
Generally, nature leaves dirt all over its lumpy, bumpy floor. Rocks are strewn about every which way while trees sprout gnarly, dripping branches without giving a hoot for symmetry or cleanliness. There are bugs all over the place, and the cute little animals make messes wherever they please.
Yet we praise the beauty of nature while imposing unnatural tidiness on everyone else.
My personal decorating scheme is what I like to call ''Creative Chaos.'' I crave multiple focal points to jar the creative juices. Plus, there's also something to fiddle with to distract me from the chore of working.
Dad dubbed my decorating scheme ''Clean Up This Mess Right Now!'' I thought the name bulky and tedious. I tried to tell him so, but he was too busy handing me a trash bin and shovel to take notice.
Dad never stopped to consider that he was stifling genius.
Geniuses are all around us.
''Once upon a time, my children started a nasty rumor that my desk had a wooden top,'' Karen M. Corbett of Cortland wrote. ''I have no idea how they knew that. I have not seen it for years.''
Karen freely shares her genius.
''One of my happy volunteer tasks is setting up displays at the Cortland Bazetta Historical Museum at the Viets House in Cortland. It is there that I have perfected the art of artistically setting things crooked.
''What fun it is to see people tilt their heads... Oh the relief it is to have more space in which to devalue the idea that life should be in plumb.
''It is also more efficient to have papers in a pile at odd angles. Grabbing an exposed corner is much faster than picking up the papers to search through them.''
Now that is the thought of pure genius.
My college roommate and I were famous for piling stacks of papers and books on our desks, bed and other handy surfaces. What astounded our organized friends was we always knew in which pile and how deep a document lurked. We always had our paper in hand before they could finish yanking open their filing drawers.
But we geniuses reserve the right to be eccentric. While my desk is clutter, all my music CDs are sorted by genre, alphabetized by artist and further stacked by release date.
Karen knows. ''Although I cannot hang a picture straight, I have been known to remind others when the pictures in their spaces (at work) are crooked. ... At home, well, I am at home.''
And it's the home of wonderfully cluttered genius. Just ask Einstein.
----- Sweep away at Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org