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Philosophy Tuesday

March 10, 2015

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

I assert that a tendency has developed to be very reductionist when looking at things, either looking for the smoking gun or the silver bullet. Seeking the reason why X happens; the Y thing we need to do change something; the reason they did/do that thing; the one thing to do to make your new year’s resolution stick.

And it would be great if it were one thing, wouldn’t it? It’d be simple. Simple to understand, and simple to “fix” if that’s what we’re interested in doing – or simple to blame, if we’d prefer to just be right about it.

The thing is, especially when it comes to people and our behaviour, many things aren’t that simple and don’t possess a single influence. There are many moving parts, and each one can have an influence, and each part may have different influences at different times, or only when acting in concert will two of those pieces be able to mesh to produce movement.

It is much less like pushing on a ball – you apply force and the ball moves – and more like pushing on a single ball in a pit – you push on a ball, and all the balls jostle here and there. Push really hard on one ball, and you may see movement (though not necessarily in a straight line); push on a bunch of balls a little, and you’ll also likely see movement.

By extension, this also applies to the systems we have created, be they social, economic, interpersonal, or otherwise, as well as how we react to or mould ourselves within those systems. And what may keep those systems in place, when by many measures they have drawbacks.

To fully explore the vagaries of life, the seemingly intractable ways things happen, to fully understand and relate to each other, it pays dividends to explore beyond the easy, the surface, the simple, the one-note.

To address and begin to reorient ourselves and our systems towards a future we truly all want, single-pronged approaches will be singularly limited in impact. Delving more broadly, and in multiple areas interrupting the “norm” to adding what’s missing, that is how the greatest impact will be had.

It is more complex that way. It is perhaps more work. But the outcome is much sweeter.

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