• Posted: Jul 22, 2011 16:31:10
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In English, when someone intends to cleanse their body they say they are going to "take a bath" or "take a shower". Of course, they don't actually "take" anything, in the sense of walk away with something. More correctly they could say "give themselves a bath" or maybe "immerse themselves in a bath". Oddly, in a completely different context, "take a bath" can also mean suffer significant financial loss, as if one's money has been washed down a drain. Logically, that means money is equivalent to filth, in that both can be similarly washed away. But few people would argue money is filth. Such are the peculiarities of language, logic. and the realities they attempt to describe for us.
What happens within our brains when language, logic, and reality don't match? Sometimes, such situations strike us as funny. We may smile, giggle, or crack up. Other times, we puzzle, stymied in our progress toward making sense of things. Still other times we freeze, grow anxious, become frightened, and perhaps strike out at what does not conform to our more comfortable preconceptions. And finally, when some few of us perceive a language, logic, reality mismatch it prompts us to consider a new system of preconceptions, one that better "explains" the incongruity we perceive. That "new system" represents a change in the way we conceptually model the workings of the phenomenal world. In other words, instead of sticking with how we always thought reality worked, we try to imagine how reality actually works.
As a case in point, consider the image above. The image contains a bathtub. But is the context a bathroom? Not likely. Certainly not any bathroom I've ever seen. The room seems unlikely to afford privacy. The lighting is odd. There is no sink and no commode. So what's going on? Seemingly, we need a new theory of bathtubs and their contexts for the image to make sense. We must imagine a new way to connect the bathtub to its context. Any ideas?
There are two types of imagining we might employ: divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking generates alternatives, as in trying to list all the types of fruit we know of. Whereas convergent thinking would be like trying to imagine which fruit might combine best with bananas in a smoothie. Relative to the picture above, we must first try to imagine all the uses a bathtub could be put to besides taking a bath. And second, we must then try narrowing that list to those uses which match the industrial walls and lighting we see in the image. Making any progress?
So why do I bring this up? I bring it up because far too often, for my tastes at least, we see people running into situations that do not match their preconceptions. And so, what do they do? Instead of engaging the event as opportunity to learn, to expand and deepen their understanding of things, they decide the world has been corrupted and proceed to back off, erect walls, and throw stones in an attempt to secure and purify their portion of the world. The end result is argument, strife, and sometimes murder or war. But, all that is really needed is a fresh understanding of the peculiarities reality holds for us, and how those peculiarities might fit with the rest of what we already understand of reality. It isn't all that hard an exercise. It can even be fun, as well as humbling and inspiring. But not nearly enough folks look at it that way. Our culture does not value, nor cultivate, that kind of thinking. Instead, it suggests we choose sides. And, as a result, we are all forced to endure the discomforting social consequences.
As to that image above, try considering what it takes to fix a flat.
Saturday, September 25th, 2010
7.4 mm 35 mm