Space and the Binary Obsession
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Space and the Binary Obsession • Posted: Oct 07, 2013 00:13:40Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Confrontation with a 2 year old is something to behold, so a friend tells me, who recently witnessed such an encounter. The 2 year old wanted the door to a veterinary examining room closed. The adult, a veterinary technician (nurse for animals), did not. The 2 year old insisted. The vet tech did too. Before long, the adult was upset and the 2 year old was throwing a screaming fit.

Remind you of anything in the news recently?

What if the vet tech had said to the 2 year old: "Hey guy, we need that door open, but you can help me do something very important, something only you can do. And this puppy here of yours will be very grateful if you do." And then, what if she gave the kid an actual job to do that both engaged his attention and assisted with the task at hand, namely helping his injured puppy? What do you think would have happened? Would the confrontation have ended? Or, would it have escalated? On the other hand, what if the vet tech had just shrugged off the 2 year old, let him play with the door, closing and opening it as he wished, and gotten on with helping the puppy? Would the puppy have been any worse off?

Confrontations like that one with the 2 year old occur in the adult world too. We often call them "impasses". But what they really are are binary obsessions. One or both sides become entirely focused on one thing, something that either is or isn't, like a binary on/off switch with no dimmer in the middle. No other topics are under consideration. The rest of the world becomes invisible, along with all responsibility to it. The entirety of focus is on that one binary thing, is or isn't. And, as with all immature obsessions, anything else invoked for consideration is heaped onto that one decision. All the world is selfishly held at stop unless and until. The situation develops as if an earthquake, everything held in place until one particular rock breaks under the strain and a whole land mass is forced to shift in adjustment. A maniacal triumph for the one obsessed. Ridiculing contempt in the eyes of anyone drawn in and affected.

Such a process is unusual in nature, though. Throughout nature, very few processes other than earthquakes are similarly held in abeyance waiting for one binary decision to be made. Most natural processes are the culmination of huge numbers of smaller processes. And they, in turn, are the result of flow, cooperation, coordination, compromise, melding, molding, reformulation, adjustment, readjustment, and innovation. Insisting a doorway be constructed right in front of one so one can pass or, if not, resorting to blowing to smithereens whatever impedes, is not the way nature works. Nature finds a way around, through, over, under, comes back later, or changes direction altogether. The choice is never left at binary. Space around is recognized, appreciated, and exploited. Nature and life move on because there are always options. Space to operate is always bigger than imagined. By comparison, intellectual poverty and myopic obsession are the most self-destructive inflictions any one human or group of humans can suffer.

May the coming week bring some real grown-up insight and innovation to the "impasses" we all face.

If not, very likely the rest of the world will move on without us, guffawing ridicule in the process. And rightly so.

Monday, September 23rd, 2013