Use Edges and Value the Marginal

"Don't think you are on the right track just because it is a well-beaten path"

The icon of the sun coming up over the horizon with a river in the foreground shows us a world composed of edges.

Tidal estuaries are a complex interface between land and sea that can be seen as a great ecological trade market between these two great domains of life. The shallow water allows penetration of sunlight for algae and plant growth, as well as providing forage areas for wading and other birds. The fresh water from catchment streams rides over the heavier saline water that pulses back and forth with the daily tides, redistributing nutrients and food for the teeming life.

Within every terrestrial ecosystem, the living soil, which may only be a few centimetres deep, is an edge or interface between non-living mineral earth and the atmosphere. For all terrestrial life, including humanity, this is the most important edge of all. Deep, well-drained and aerated soil is like a sponge, a great interface that supports productive and healthy plant life. Only a limited number of hardy species can thrive in shallow, compacted and poorly drained soil, which has an insufficient edge.

Eastern spiritual traditions and martial arts regard peripheral vision as a critical sense that connects us to the world quite differently to focused vision. This principle reminds us to maintain awareness, and make use, of edges and margins at all scales, in all systems. Whatever is the object of our attention, we need to remember that it is at the edge of anything, system or medium that the most interesting events take place; a design that sees edge as an opportunity rather than a problem is more likely to be successful and adaptable. In the process, we discard the negative connotations associated with the word "marginal" in order to see the value in elements that only peripherally contribute to a function or system.

The proverb "don't think you are on the right track just because it is a well-beaten path" reminds us that the most common, obvious and popular is not necessarily the most significant or influential.