Sunday, May 10, 2009


relationships. there is an attraction to the sciences that stems from predictability. we talk about the "social sciences," which is fair enough, but the science in those fields is more statistical. and, truth be told, the reality in all our fields of study has turned out to be more about probability than certainty. Still, there's something about the ideal billiard balls of classical physics or the statics of structural design that is comforting. predictability. certainty.

then there are relationships. the inner dialogue we all experience. the fact that our own reactions to a given situation are not always easily understood, even by ourselves. in fact, the very question "why?" doesn't always even seem relevant. sometimes, things just "are."

It seems like some people are more "complex" than others. i recall a high school lit teacher stating "when you describe a character as 'complex' you are basically saying they are self-contradictory." sometimes i think that describes us all to some degree, but some quite a bit more than others. i think it stems mostly from the multiple different desires, which we hold as singuarities, but which, in the course of actual circumstance, end up at odds. if we could always have everything we want, there would be no complexity. if we each only wanted one thing, then the strongest would get it, and again there would be no complexity. but that is not the case. instead, we all want a very wide range of different things, and the nature of reality makes different combinations possible to get. to make it even more complex, there is a constant tug-of-war, a set of potential tradeoffs to give us a range of different combinations of some of our desires, each set coming with a different set of costs.

and most of these desires that fit into these complex internal emotional equations are not conciously held. often, when the turmoil rises within, we have a hard time placing why we feel so strongly about what has happened, or what we think may happen. communication is helpful in relationship, but only insofar as we actually understand what the issues are. communication of ignorance, or worse yet a misinterpretation is hardly helpful for the future.

Monday, May 4, 2009

the big sort

i always enjoy the time on a plane if i have a good book i'm really into. on the flight out this time, i finished "the big sort: why the clustering of like minded america is tearing us apart" by bill bishop. this is one of the most interesting and thought provoking books i've read in a while. (but then, sorry scott, i actually liked freakenomics)

i'm always limited by time in most everything i do, and these blog posts are certainly no exception. there's only enough time to tap out a smidge of what's running through your head about an idea, and then there's real life to take care of. the unexaminded life is not worth living, but examining life takes more time than living it, so the math really doesn't work out very well. we end up examining a sample of our lives, not the whole thing. we just differ person to person on our sampling rates. some of us reach some threshold to be considered "introspective"

he points out that americans, among "developed" nations, actually are somewhat above average in our desire to talk about politics, according to studies. we are quite reticent, however, to talk about our political views with people who disagree with us. we only want to talk politics with "us" rather than them.

this is reflective of everything, not just politics. we are a people who avoid not only conflict, but difference. there are, of course, prominent examples, like our very diverse workplaces, where economic incentive drives us to leave that behind, so if you wish to argue the point, you can find plenty of ammunition. but the statistics of how we vote, what we buy, where we go (or don't go) to church, and where we live, speak pretty loudly. you can argue some about the why, about the interpretation, but not the what.

it's actually very reminiscent of the reformation. there is a shift in identity from an inclusive ("catholic" pretty much means "universal"), to the particular. once the identity shifts, the "other" becomes the enemy.

i think that's why we are becoming increasingly polarized. we have, as a nation, ceased to identify first as americans, but rather have redefined real americans as people like us.