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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


December 18th, 2020


The subject of nuance isn’t nuanced; unless of course the ingredients to notice and understand nuance aren’t present, at which point it might as well be as inscrutable and complicated as the stars were to the critters of the Paleozoic era.  If perspective functions as anything, it’s a filter for the situation at hand, and perspective augments and shape-shifts based on the situation, meaning that the details that get through for us to consider also change.


The details of meaning for this present sentence, for example cease to be important if you suddenly realize your hair is on fire.  In that instant perspective snaps to a radically different shape, filtering for a totally different set of information, like that bucket of water that happens to be right next to you.   Nuance of meaning regarding words and sentences isn’t simply of no importance, but concentrating on the topic is simply impossible with your hair on fire.  In such a state, we are overwhelmed with a different set of priorities.


In fact, we may be so overwhelmed with this radical new set of priorities brought about by a fire atop our head that we may even miss that important detail of the bucket of water sitting usefully and conveniently right where we need it.  Much misfortune propagates in this way: the answer, the help, the resource is never very far away, but somehow we are blind to it.  


This is the essence of resourcefulness, which is merely the ability to see something as a resource that doesn’t immediately look like one.  What’s required here in order to look at something ordinary in an extraordinary way?  


The word subtle is defined as a change or distinction so delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyze or describe.  Now what exactly does a person’s attention need in order to pick up on something subtle?  The answers are obvious and simple enough: calmness and a little time being perhaps the most important ones.  Heightened emotion does little more than cripple our attentional ability to parse subtlety and pick up on nuances.  Emotion often just robs attention of the resources it needs to nurture our perspective with the right environmental details to spark good ideas.  Those details are the subtle keys to unlocking new resources that no one else notices.


Here resides a strange necessity of success: the intensity of emotions of all kinds, be they negative or positive must be reduced in order to see useful details and consider their application in beneficial ways.  Ecstatic love can be just as blinding as rage and unbridled anger.  The strange and counter-intuitive aspect of this necessity is that the very experience of such emotions automatically convinces us otherwise by dint of the fact they make us feel a certain way.  The condition of emotion is intrinsically compelling.  


Notice that thought is not intrinsically compelling.  If an idea pops up in the mind, we’re likely just to see how we feel about that idea to determine if it’s a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ one.  The trick isn’t to snuff out emotion all together and try to be some kind of cold and calculating robot, but rather to knit thought and emotion closer together.  The power of thought regarding emotion is captured by the thinking mind’s ability to simply notice any present emotion - the effect is a deflationary one.  It’s very difficult to be simultaneously very angry and self-conscious.  The second de-powers the first.  Doing so is often enough to introduce nuance and to notice subtle details and ultimately to become more resourceful by manipulating subtle details.

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

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Podcast Ep. 978: Subtle Keys

Tinkered Thinking

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