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INSANE DETAILS

July 4th, 2020

 

Some details, tiny issues like shoe pebbles, the sort generally reserved as nits for the nitpicker, both urgent and unimportant can persist in a way that seems unsolvable.  Dealing with these pesky details can make a person wonder if they are getting a bit touched in the head, obsessive, certainly at least a little crazy. 

 

Am I making a bigger deal of this than it needs to be?

 

Should I move on?

 

Am I just being a perfectionist?

 

Problems though, no matter how large or how irritatingly tiny, are antilindy, meaning merely that the likelihood that such problems continue to exist given consistent effort and concern, dwindles.  Problems, by definition, are issues that can imaginably be resolved.  And for this later group of irritatingly tiny details, the deranging emotional adventure we take ourselves through to meet their resolution can seem greeted by an equally strong absurdity that such problems ever existed at all, once solved.

 

Checking your shoe a dozen times for a tiny pebble can seem patently ridiculous when you finally discover the pain is actually a tiny splinter in your foot.

 

Such small details are, unfortunately, everywhere.  They stand at the beginning of projects, determined to keep us from ever starting.  They populate the final steps of those same projects, throwing out one extra unexpected step just after you thought you broke through the finishing ribbon.  They exist as pebbles and splinters in shoes.  They in fact join together to create massive problems.

 

Any problem is, just a web of much smaller problems.

 

Deconstructing a problem into many can certainly make each problem simpler and procedurally easier to solve, but this doesn’t mean they are any less aggravating.  Fine-tuning anything, be it a guitar or the placement of a graphic or the placement of punctuation, is often easy in terms of what needs to be done.   A little this way, a little that way, then back a little.  But when results are less than ideal, over and over, the repetition of those easy small pseudo-solutions can be maddening.

 

The real problem in the end is not the arbitrarily elusive solution that we eventually find.  The real challenge is an emotional one.  When it comes to problem solving, intelligence is not nearly as important as patience, and being able to maintain a level head in the face of frustration.

 

Going through that tense experience of insanity, over and over, can bring us to realms of success that others admire.  But note, the admiration is generated mostly by a lack of patience, and an inability to to mindfully direct one’s own attention in possibly productive ways, over and over, no matter the set back, the frustration and every little insane detail along the way.

 


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

or
Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 811: Insane Details

from
Tinkered Thinking


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MOMENT MECHANICS

July 3rd, 2020

 

Close your eyes and recall that perfect moment: throwing the gear shift into fifth as that favorite song crescendos, the windows open, the warm air of that summer from long ago coursing over your skin.  Or that wobbling image in the water of a loved one smiling at your noticed reflection.  Or when the trees finally gave way to the view on that hike and it was as though the world had thrown open doors to some hidden beauty, the valley cascading down into the distance as you realized how much of the world seemed beneath your feet. 

 

What is it about these moments that align, like variables in equations shuttling into place, revolving to align, those ethereal pins of our locked mind meeting their secret heights to turn our perspective onto the majesty of the moment?

 

Imaginably, there was someone else on that road without a favorite song, having a terrible day, cursing their luck.  And somewhere else someone’s tears shattered their own reflection on another shore, and yet another person winced with the pain of a broken bone, wondering how they might get down off the mountain.

 

A fundamental question that too few seem to stumble across or seriously entertain:  does my environment determine my internal state, or do I?

 

There is further an enraged driver whose mindfulness practice finally slips into the experience of their anger, who pauses within the storm of their own rage, for the first time, and breaths, merely breathes and marvels at the whole spectrum of emotion suddenly splayed wide upon their sense of life.  There is yet another, heartbroken but grateful at the chance to have loved, to simply be capable of such depths of feeling who embarrassingly risks a smile, seeing the entire tumult of romance like a treasured book, unique and whispered now only in the private memories of mind that will forever cherish the story.  And still there is a person calming their split nerves with a disciplined attention, suddenly grateful about the nature of their broken bone, realizing how much worse it could be, seeing quickly a solid and fallen branch nearby that has a perfect fork, that will make an ideal crutch once the initial pain has subsided.

 

What is it in our nature, in our brain and bodies, and from our experience that allows or creates these different experiences?

 

Is it worth it to wait around for all the variables of circumstance to line up for something like happiness to happen?

 

Or is there another set of variables, levers to toggle, buttons to push in sequence, habits to practice and thoughts to nurture that allow for a person to transform to the situation, shuttling different mental machinery into place, rotating perspective, oscillating the view of context in order to strike upon the ethereal combination of internal decisions that sync up with circumstance to produce a sense of life unmissed but embraced, no matter how terrible or painful..?

 

 


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

or
Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 810: Moment Mechanics

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Tinkered Thinking


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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.




VARIETIES OF NONSENSE

July 2nd, 2020

 

It’s a feature and a bug that we can understand different varieties of nonsense.  That sentence itself might count as an example.  We need only wonder: is it nonsense if it can be understood?  Isn’t that a contradiction since nonsense is defined as that which can’t be understood?  And yet there are formal traditions and practices involving koans, which are perhaps designed not to make sense in order to further a mental practice.  At the same time, we as a group species occasionally fall under the spell of hysteria where we use mental frameworks rife with contradiction in order to make decisions. 

 

It’s occasionally said that a wise person is capable of holding two disagreeable ideas in their mind at the same time.  It seems we can say something similar about those who lack wisdom: people are quite capable of holding two different contexts in mind, so long as they don’t overlap in any way that might rouse an inconvenient suspicion of contradiction.

 

Wisdom, or rather growth as a person is achieved when we let those contradictory ideas and their respective contexts mingle in our mind, battle it out and resolve into a stronger context.

 

The hypocrite is a person who can’t entertain this internal resolution.  A hypocrite keeps the contradictory notions of their mind carefully separated.  Using each only in turn when it’s appropriate, convenient, and above all: sensible.

 

The contradiction of the hypocrite is only visible from a larger context that includes both notions.  Perhaps this is what it means to be narrow minded: you can only see and deal with one idea at a time, so the contradiction never reveals itself.  Open mindedness might not be so much about how willing you are to welcome in new ideas as it is having enough open room in your mind to see that some of the ideas in there, contradict.

 

This definition of narrow-mindedness allows for nonsensical frameworks to function in the short term.  The long eye of history holds in view a larger context by default.  The saying hindsight is 20/20 merely means that our perspective is now wide enough that we can see the contradiction, the mistake…the nonsense of our actions, because we can now see all of the different contradicting parts in one view.

 

Nonsense either reveals itself or dissolves as we change the scope of our perspective and the size of the context at hand.  Keeping this ability to ‘zoom’ in and out is key to resolving contradiction and creating a perspective that is more in line with a reality that enables us to make things happen.  Counter to ignoring nonsense, we are best served by trying to understand why something seems like nonsense and likewise endeavoring to see if our own thinking and behavior looks like nonsense from a different perspective.


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

or
Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 809: Varieties of Nonsense

from
Tinkered Thinking


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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.




CLOSING SCOPE

July 1st, 2020

 

The realm of possible answers can be unfathomably large.  But it all depends on the question, of course.  What is the meaning of life? Is obnoxiously unanswerable.  One may certainly say there are answers, but such answers fail to preclude other answers, making the subject and discussion often unproductive and forever open-ended.  What day is tomorrow?  Though, that has an answer.  And one reason why this second question is so much easier is because the scope is easy to refine.  For one thing, there are only 7 possible answers, and then adding the consideration of what day is today not only eliminates an answer but the dependable order of the scope serves up the solution as the next option.

 

 

Solving a problem requires an ability to understand where to look for an answer.  Or put another way, we can solve problems faster if we know where not to look.  This is often what experience in a given field equips a person with: having seen similar issues, their perspective isn’t so much oriented towards where to look as it is aware of useless rabbit holes where a novice might spend a great deal of time finding their way to a dead end.  The expert zeroes in with a finer scope, a smaller field of possible solutions.

 

Something similar happens in writing.  Of all possible and conceivable sentences that could follow this one, how is the next one found?  A possible sentence is: cold rain withered the resolve of the man’s courage.  That is a valid sentence, but in the context of what is being spoken about here, it’s completely disjointed.  It is as though we briefly glimpse and completely different world, like that from the pages of a novel.  Scope and context are functionally the same here.  Each new sentence seeks to answer the question of what the next sentence will be while remaining relevant to the context.  We might drill down on this notion and wonder if a repetitive poem, or the chorus of a song is somehow more evocative of it’s own context and scope.  Hard to say for sure, but it seems as though the answer might be yes.  For something like a story, or an essay, even a mere winding ponderance as this doesn’t just stay in it’s own context but expands it’s context as each sentence achieves two things simultaneously:  each sentence refers to the previous context, but also expands that context by saying something new.

 

How does this relate to solving problems other than how to fill up the infinite abyss of a blank page?  Even experts don’t have all the answers, but they often have better heuristics for solving problems that are within their scope of concentration.  Implicit in that sentence is the notion that such experts don’t have an exhaustive knowledge or understanding of that context. Our knowledge, understanding and experience in any realm is a patchwork at best.  Having a sense of where a solution might reside is a bit like an expert approaching a rock they’ve walked by many times and finally turning that rock over to see what’s underneath.  Clues in the larger context point at that rock, but even the expert isn’t sure what’s underneath until it’s turned.  A novice, on the other hand might turn over hundreds of other rocks, looking for the answer, being without the familiarity of context and scope that someone like an expert might have.

 

This process of familiarizing our self with the context, and then closing the scope down to a narrower portion of that context can be vastly more efficient with the right rhythm of questions.  Following the question of what day is tomorrow? with the question what day is today? is a simple example.  Imagine if otherwise the follow up question had been what day was it 48 days ago?  This question, while it has a definite answer, doesn’t really help us determine what day tomorrow is.  It might with a few more questions, but it’s certainly not the most efficient leap between questions. 

 

How fast we can iterate through possible questions to investigate, and more importantly, our ability to assess questions as more or less effective determines to a great deal our speed when navigating new territory.  This is learning: a rubric for forming questions that we ask ourselves.  We learn faster when this rubric is efficient and robust, and we hit more frustration when this rubric is untrained and disjointed.  It’s worth it to wonder:

 

how good are you at asking the right question?

 


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

or
Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 808: Closing Scope

from
Tinkered Thinking


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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.




EACH IN TURN

June 30th, 2020

 

 

It’s one thing to know the definition of a word, it’s quite another to understand the full breadth of the concept we use.  And beyond this, we each individually use these words and concepts in nuanced ways that differ from others.  The troubling trend around this is how seldom people examine the concepts and the language they use, and as a result they become victims to drift in meaning as the words they use become unanchored from their history and function.

 

Each word in a sentence is appropriated, not because of a deep investigation of it’s meaning and use, but often just because the word approximates a detail of an emotional push that has provoked the uttering of the sentence.  We’re all aware of those who can rattle off a great number of words without ever saying anything, and the quacking of these sorts of ducks is the best example to hint at the emotional root of talking and communicating.  What such people are doing has little if anything to do with meaning and information, and everything to do with the satisfaction of a particular emotional impulse.  An orator, if dressed correctly and in the right setting and equipped with the right force of voice can sway are great many people to their side of the story, even if that story has practically no substance to it.  We are creatures that communicate primarily through emotion.

 

Introspection, as we seem to understand it and think of the word is some sort of practice of looking within our own being to see and know what is there.  But what exactly is the experience of our inner being?  We feel a spectrum of emotion glittering throughout the body.  There are of course other physical sensations that don’t really accord to an emotion, and then there is the hazy realm of thought which occasionally gels into expressible forms: that is, words.

 

Introspection, as a practical effort may boil down to simply investigating the way you use words and what you think they mean.  Words, in this regard, are the substrate upon which the unique orientation of our person resides.  To think of it another way, we only need ask:

 

How would you understand who you are without language?

 

It otherwise stands to reason that understanding how we work is really a matter of understanding the concepts we use, the way we use them, and how they do or don’t work together in ways that create meaningful results.

 

In some sense, Tinkered Thinking is just a daily meditation on the effort to investigate, explore and test the function of the words and concepts that make up the practical mechanics of a mind.  If one thing is clear, it’s how fruitfully surprising this practice has been.  Many of the words we use, the concepts upon which we rely, have details and nuances of meaning and function rooted in their history and etymology that result in a clarifying lens through which to see their warped use in the present.

 

A simple and current example is the word truth.  The phrases “my truth” and “your truth” completely undermine the definition of the word ‘truth’.  This is not a concept that is separated by perspective and individuality.  It’s the exact opposite:

 

Truth is what can be verified across perspectives.  It is the understanding of reality that can be shared and relied upon without previous testing.

 

To bifurcate it’s meaning into mine and yours, and then to further ramify the meaning into many puts at risk the ability for language to carry a common thread between perspectives.  What’s been done seems to be that words like ‘opinion’ and ‘perspective’ failed to have enough emotional force in recent public discourse, so the foundational sounding ‘truth’ has been appropriated so as to give more intestinal fortitude to statements regarding opinion and perspective. 

 

Of course, there’s no mechanism in language to protect against this.  It’s fundamental feature of language that words can lose their meanings and gain new ones. 

 

But there is a human mechanism to protect against the morass of unintelligibility that such drift in the case of the word truth may cause.  That mechanism is simple, albeit perhaps rare, it’s introspection. It is the practice of looking at words and concepts -each in turn-  plainly for what they have meant, and more importantly, to incisively capture the function of that word which is at the heart of it’s original need to be created.

 


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

or
Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 807: Each In Turn

from
Tinkered Thinking


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If you appreciate the work of Tinkered Thinking, please consider lending support. This platform can only continue and flourish with the support of readers and listeners like you.

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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.