Nitzan Hermon wrote in his last email:
In many ways, the more affordances we want to have to change and adapt, the less clear we can afford to be. We need to negotiate with reality and see how much change we can afford.
It is easy to forget that aesthetics and creativity rely on a departure from logic. We might feel a visceral pull towards an artwork or a garment, but we will not understand it. Somehow, we don’t give ourselves the same permission.
I have discussed this idea of being misunderstood and confusing quite a bit with Nitzan and others and I find it enticing. It links with Dave Snowden’s use of Aporia in Cynefin, where one puts oneself consciously into a state of confusion or not knowing in order to open up new possibilities of thinking.
Our thinking is principally incremental. We hang every new perception onto a scaffolding of earlier perceptions that are stored in our brains. We interpret the world through what we have experienced before. New perception are described by old, stored perceptions. This is a key criterion of Gregory Bateson’s mental process: “In mental process, the effects of difference are to be regarded as transforms (i.e., coded versions) of events which preceded them.” (Bateson 2002) So the question comes up for me how we ever have truly novel thoughts. This is relevant if we want to successfully face the social and ecological crises we are facing.
To achieve fundamental social and economic transformations, we must go beyond the solutions we can imagine based on our existing mindsets and frames of reference. Such entangled systems of thought tend to reproduce themselves and, hence, solutions that are developed in co-creative processes often just lead to a recreation of existing problems in different shapes.
Confusing ourselves (and others) allows us to make new connections, to connect things we would not have thought are usefully connected. That is abductive reasoning. According to Charles Sanders Peirce, the development of abductive hypotheses is “the only logical operation which introduces any new idea.”
Can we become aware of our patterns of thinking and can we consciously confuse ourselves so we can make novel connections through abductive reasoning? What is your experience?
When do you confuse yourself? What happens then?
Share your thoughts by replying to this email.
Reference: Bateson, Gregory. 2002.Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. Hampton Press.
This is from a newsletter I received this week from Margaret Wheatley:
What do you define as meaningful work? For most of us, our work has meaning if it enables us to fulfill our purpose. A clear purpose gives us focus, direction and motivation. We use the lens of purpose to consciously choose our work and we feel satisfied and rewarded when our good work bears fruit.
In the past, we self-determined our purpose. We defined the contributions that would satisfy us. We decided what would make life meaningful. We expected the world to welcome us as bright and committed people eager to contribute. We didn’t notice that our purpose was an imposition on the world, demanding it give us what we wanted, not thinking to ask what the world needed from us.
This troubled and troubling world needs us more than ever. It needs our skills, our caring, our perseverance. We still want to contribute. We still want our contribution to be meaningful. But who gets to define meaning? It is the world, not us. We stop asking the world to give us opportunities to fulfill our purpose. Instead, we look to the world to tell us what it needs from us. To discover what is meaningful, we learn to ask this question:
What is needed here? Am I the right person to contribute to this need?_
Such a profound shift requires our deep attention.
Why have I added this to my paper museum? It resonated with me and my view on purpose that I shared in an earlier instance of my thinkletter. Where does purpose come from? While I wrote that purpose and the search for purpose is a distraction, I totally agree that purpose is also an imposition of our egos onto the world. Who is waiting for us and our purpose? Why would the world have to respond to us and be grateful that we are there and want to make things better? How do we even know how to make things better given our limited ability to perceive what is going on?
The image shows a Milbert’s Tortoiseshell - Aglais milberti. The butterfly’s wings look like eyes – the eyes of the predators of its predators. Gregory Bateson calls this phenomenon abductive process, when one context is the description of another context – the butterfly describes the predator of the predators – a beautiful example of co-evolution. Source