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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


June 24th, 2019

What is brittle breaks.  Like a stone column that stands perfect against a growing amount of force but then suddenly cracks, there is no warning, no indication of impending failure.  It just happens.


Brittle defines this lack of wiggle-room between the strength that something exhibits and the point at which it fails.


Flexibility, on the other hand, is perhaps at the other end of the spectrum.  Not on a spectrum of strength or weakness, but on a spectrum with a growing distance between failure and an indication that failure is imminent.


Both the flexible structure and the brittle structure can handle stress within their limits, but only the flexible structure indicates that those limits of stress are nearing. 


Flexibility then in this sense, is a way to see the future.  The flexible expression of any given thing indicates changes in the the forces of the environment, both of magnitude and speed. 


For example, when a big storm is tossing up a big wind, we can watch a tree bend and sway to the force of the wind.  How far it bends is an indication of the magnitude of the wind’s force, and how quickly it bends is an indication of the speed.  This can’t be seen with a stone tower that suddenly and simply falls over.


Predicting the future in this sense of flexibility, is all about reading the present accurately and precisely.


By understanding exactly what is going on in the moment, the possibilities for the next moment narrow.


Think about how this is not possible with the stone tower.  By simply looking at the brittle structure we have no indication of changes in the wind nor the absolute magnitude of the wind at any given point.  We are totally blind to whether the stone tower will fall or stand in the next moment.


Whereas with the tree, it’s far more likely we’ll be able to predict if it’ll fall in the next moment or not.  If it suddenly bends farther than we’ve seen it previously, then the possibility that it falls is suddenly much higher.  If it survives such a bend then we have a greater range of understanding.  None of that is possible with the brittle stone tower.


Charles Darwin’s ideas were once rephrased with: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, but rather, that which is most adaptable to change.”


From a human standpoint, a huge amount of this adaptability simply boils down to awareness. 




This is obvious with a simple question:


How can we adapt to something that we are oblivious to?


Flexibility, in terms of perspective might at first seem to indicate something wishy-washy, like a person who is overly-empathetic with anything that is said.  But within the framework here, flexibility of perspective is more about being aware of the all forces present in a situation.


A brittle perspective lacks awareness of forces that might be key to making productive strides.


Flexibility is not about compromising one’s goals or aims but having a malleable perspective separate from those goals and aims that ultimately serves such goals and aims.


Not only does this have the ability to lift the personal from many situations and illuminate the underlying forces that motivate people, but


At the very least, to be flexible


is to never get bent out of shape.

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

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Podcast Ep. 435: Flexibility

Tinkered Thinking

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