Making Connections


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Order                         -                      Chaos
Life                           -                      Death
Known                      -                      Unknown
Complete                   -                      Incomplete


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The conscious, purposeful mind strives for completion. Taken to its extreme, it sees only order and denies anything that may disrupt that order. It tends towards purity, and singularity, preferring wholes over parts. It is hostile to news of foreign lands. It believes it has a hold on things, that it can see the full picture; it mistakes its limited view for omniscience.

Yet every thing it creates - every story, plan, structure, or theory - has a hole in it, a place where something is missing. This hole is the gateway to everything else, to all those things that have been left out; and through it chaos can be heard, like a whistling wind.

This gateway is the unconscious mind. Taken to its extreme it sees only chaos, and denies that order is possible. It tends toward plurality, favouring parts over wholes.

Everything is multi-faceted, and so to describe something is always to paint a partial picture. We cannot see everything, and so are always overlooking something.

Every structure - every story, or explanation - is, therefore, incomplete. But is it complete enough? 


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Dreams, religious experience, art, love - these were the phenomena that still had power, Bateson thought, to undermine the rash/rational purposeful mind.

Of these four, art enjoyed the special role of fusing different "levels of mind" together:

there was necessarily consciousness and purpose in the decision to create, but creativity itself involved openness to material from the unconscious, otherwise the work would be merely schematic and transparent.

Discussing a Balinese painting that at the most immediate level shows a cremation procession, but can also be read as a phallic symbol (the tall cremation tower in the centre has an elephant on each side at the base) or as an account of Balinese social organisation (the etiquette and gaiety of the funeral crowd smoothing the turbulence of grief), Bateson remarks that the painting is profound because not "really" about one or the other, or even all three, but about their connectedness. "In a word, it is only about relationship and not about any identifiable relata."

Similarly, a novel whose characters develop in a mutually defining play of identities, each changing in response to the others, expressing together a collective ethos of which none is fully representative - one thinks of the Karamazov brothers and their appalling father - undermines the notion that anyone can grasp the overall pattern of which they are a part.

So, quite apart from any political content, narrative can induce a contemplative respect for the mysterious interconnectedness of the world, something that, hopefully, might lead to more cautious behaviour and a little less enthusiasm for dramatic intervention.

[Tim Parks]
Everything is connected, article about Gregory Bateson published in The Guardian. Can be found here.

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The narrative fallacy addresses our limited ability to look at sequences of facts without weaving an explanation into them, or, equivalently, forcing a logical link, an arrow of relationship upon them.

Explanations bind facts together. They make them all the more easily remembered; they help them make more sense. 

Where this propensity can go wrong is when it increases our impression of understanding.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb] 
The Black Swan
 


Such is the power of the Narrative Fallacy — the backward-looking mental tripwire that causes us to attribute a linear and discernable cause-and-effect chain to our knowledge of the past.

[...] there is a deep biological basis to the problem: we are inundated with so much sensory information that our brains have no other choice; we must put things in order so we can process the world around us. It’s implicit in how we understand the world. 

What might we be missing?

It is very difficult to understand cause-and-effect chains, and this is a simple example compared to a complex case like a war or an economic crisis, which would have had multiple causes working in a variety of directions and enough red herrings to make a proper analysis difficult.

Stories of how businesses rise and fall strike a chord with readers by offering what the human mind needs: a simple message of triumph and failure that identifies clear causes and ignores the determinative power of luck and the inevitability of regression.

'The Narrative Fallacy and What You Can Do About It'



Simple facts are meaningless out of some context. [They] tell us nothing intrinsically useful, and we always need to weave them in some kind of story to make sense of them. 

There can be good stories and bad stories, valid stories and invalid stories, stories we like and stories we dislike, and there is certainly a hyuge market in the political world for spinning simple facts into ridiculous stories that satisfy agendas. Even physics is a way of wrapping physical observations into sophisticated mathematical stories about the behavior of materials. 

One can have a fallacious narrative, but one must have a narrative of some sort to make reasoning possible.

[Ted Wrigley]
'What is the narrative fallacy?'


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Related posts:-
Construction 
Left Out
Let's talk about it
Perfect Fiction
Fiction from Fiction
A sense of ownership
Separations and Bridges 
Constellating 
Where language ends and art begins 
In-between 
Levels of Meaning
Everything is Connected 

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