Digging Deep or Wide

Food for Thought

My mind is now preoccupied with vegetables. I randomly pick a vegetable and search the web and YouTube to see what people do with it, which leads me down a rabbit hole. I also search in Japanese, which makes the rabbit hole even deeper.

We can slice the world into breadth or depth. I think most of us naturally choose one way over the other. Breadth is more popular. For instance, when people travel, they tend to visit as many different places as possible. They feel they “missed” places they could not visit.

It’s rare to come across people who prefer to stay in one place and dig as deeply as possible. These people would feel they “missed” something if they could not learn more about a particular thing or place they chose to focus on.

The former, I call “ADHD” and the latter “Asperger,” not in the clinical sense, of course.

I tend to switch between those two modes. Some Aspergers are happy sticking to one topic all their lives, but I’ve never been that way. I go through phases. As soon as I reach a certain depth, I seem to move on to the next rabbit hole.

Before the pandemic, I was in the ADHD mode, traveling throughout New York City to find different cuisines cooked by different immigrant groups. Once the city was locked down, I went into the Asperger mode since it doesn’t require me to travel anywhere.

Take any random topic, say, carrot; there is not enough time in a day to learn everything I would want to know about it. Why do some of them come in different colors? How long does it take to grow them? What can I do with the green part? Why are the carrots sold in Chinatown so fat?

Since the pandemic, I’ve noticed that many people have switched their modes too. Some have taken up cooking, particularly items that are hard to master, like sourdough bread. At one point, finding yeast and bread flour was difficult.

Some of my friends surprised me when they switched their modes because I had never seen them in Asperger mode. Given the endless choices we face and the seemingly endless demands made on us for our attention in today’s world, the default mode for most of us is ADHD. In contrast, being in the Asperger mode feels almost luxurious.