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The way we think is both our greatest tool - indeed our only tool - and very often it is also our biggest leash. We are only who we think we are. Our opportunities are also limited by who other people think we are. It stands to reason that if we’d like to change who we are, we must start with an effort to change our thinking. Read more here

CATEGORICAL AGENCY

August 31st, 2018

Since the dawn of language, we have sought to categorize everything.  Objects, places, people, plants, animals, experiences – nothing that can be spoken about has escaped categorization.  Indeed, this is the life force of language: the juxtaposition of categories to create meaning.  Each of the words in all of these sentences resides within a category and in essence become their own final subcategory when regarded in isolation. 

 

These categories shape and control all these ways in which we interact, behave and interpret experience.

 

Indeed, man’s first and only task in the Bible is to give names to things – in essence, our first and only job was to create language.

 

And language has proved to be an infinity tool.  Meaning, it can always be added to. 

 

Any course of study in a university is essentially simply just a giant vocabulary lesson.*

 

Whether we study Literature, Neurobiology, physics or business, everything is communicated through language, and everything boils down to how we consume, ingest, interpret and manipulate the language of these subjects.

 

As we discover and learn more, it becomes necessary to add new categories and the subcategories that constitute the jargon of any new subject.

 

This is the original tool upon which –it might be argued- that all the innovations of society rest upon.

 

We must use this gift to any and all benefit that we can squeeze from it.

 

If we are constrained by the categories within which we currently live, we must remember that we don’t’ just have the ability to switch categories, we can invent new ones.

 

One’s job for example is a major categorical candidate for switching when we are dissatisfied with life.

 

“I’m sick of this profession, I think I’ll try that one.”

 

This is the traditional thinking, but we must remember that while some jobs disappear, other jobs are  literally created out of thin air…. all we need is a word for it.  And if that word can have a viable juxtaposition within the language of society, then there’s probably a way to make money doing it.

 

By using our language in innovative ways, which is really to say, if we can think of some kind of innovative solution to a problem, then we can increase our agency in the world. 

 

Language is the original engine of human agency

 

and most of the time it is squandered with complaining or meaningless jabber, when all the while we know that the right conversation with the right person, carried out in just the right kind of skillful way can put us on track to a much different experience of living.

 

Why do we shy away from developing such skills with language and thinking? 

 

If we can stop looking in the REAR-VIEW mirror, forget the past, and walk the present’s TIGHTROPE effectively, then we can fearlessly fumble through our mistakes as we experiment, and slowly ITERATE towards being a person who has more agency in the world…

 

and the more agency we can acquire, the more freedom we can enjoy.

 

 

*Physical skills, such as martial arts or sculpting or dance might be precluded from this vocabulary-lesson-designation, however the instruction of any physical activity has language to aid it, even if language is not entirely necessary for progress.

 

 

This episode references Episode 32: Rear-View, and Episode 88: Tightrope.  If you’d like to fully explore these references, please check out either episode next.



Podcast Ep. 138: Categorical Agency

from
Tinkered Thinking