The Pyramid



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LEVEL - SCALE - How high/big?

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Viewpoint - Position - Hierarchy - Games - Logical types - Roots - Development - Growth -

Size - Scale - Distance - Proximity - Infinity - Limits - Borders - Planes - Order -

Resolution

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Short                          -                       Long
Concrete                    -                      Abstract
Pragmatic                   -                      Ideal
Narrow                       -                      Wide
Small                          -                      Large
Together                     -                      Apart
Close                           -                      Far
Facts                           -                     Values
Particular                    -                      General
Individual                    -                     Collective
Chaos                           -                     Order
Hot                              -                     Cold 


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1. The Short View and the Long View

I like to imagine a town at the bottom of the pyramid. When we are at ground level we are able to walk within the town and take in various features; the smells drifting from its eateries; the sounds of its markets; the patterns of its cobbled streets; the cracks in its walls. Perhaps we come across a park, and stop and sit on the grass, feeling its blades tickling our neck as we lie down. If we look close enough we can see insects wriggling their way past us. If we are so inclined, we can dig our fingers into the dirt, and, bringing our hands close to our eyes we can see its residue lining the grooves of our fingertips.

These are the experiences that are available to us at the bottom of the pyramid. We are able to rejoice in details.

At the top of the pyramid awaits an altogether different experience. The details of the town are now lost to us; we can no longer see its cracks and crevices; smell its various odours; or touch its surfaces with our fingers. However, from up here we suddenly notice something new. We see that the streets of the town, those streets that we once walked through, make a pattern. And that the park is positioned in a very particular place within that pattern, along with a number of other landmarks. We see how everything fits together in order to create something larger. Up here another level of sense, of meaning, opens up to us.

I often use this analogy in order to illustrate different ways, or levels, of thinking. The sort of thinking that is associated with a ground-level view is pragmatic; concerned with details, and the here and now. It does not see the bigger picture. The thinking associated with the loftier view is idealist, or generalist. It is more concerned with how things fit together, and with long-term considerations. I call the view at the bottom the short view (short-term thinking) and the view from the top the long-view (long-term thinking).

I do not see one as being better than the other; rather, heeding the lesson of the colour wheel, both are necessary for a complete picture. Where one is proficient, the other is deficient. Working together they form a formidable team.

2. Abstraction

Another way of describing the change that occurs as we move up the pyramid is to say that things get more abstract. I like to imagine a pyramid that is constructed from different sized blocks. The very bottom level of the pyramid (‘Level 1’) consists of many small blocks. The next level (‘Level 2’) contains slightly fewer, larger blocks. A single block on Level 2 is large enough to contain a number of blocks from Level 1. Thus, a unit of information from the second Level encapsulates several units from the first.

In subsuming multiple blocks under one larger block - one ‘heading’ - we connect things that were formerly separate. In other words, we tell a story about them; which is another way of saying that we make sense of them. A 'story' is, in this sense, synonymous with a 'concept', or a 'category': it is a binding together of separate things.

However, the pay off is that in making sense we lose detail. Thus, as we travel up the pyramid, each level is more abstract than the one beneath it. The blocks continue to increase in size and decrease in number, resulting finally in a very large capstone. The capstone is akin to universally binding truth; it encapsulates everything beneath it, but only in a very general, or abstract, way. Such a truth could be something like “everything is connected”, or “universal love.”

The process of abstraction, then, is one of travelling upwards and away from the ground - away from concrete tangible reality and up toward the heavens. Its opposite is concretisation, which is a downward move; a grounding.

If we have our head in the clouds for too long then we may lose sight of reality. And too much time spent examining details may lead to us forgetting the bigger picture. As ever, balance is key.

3. Chaos and Order

As things become more abstract they also become more ordered, and so we can see the movement up the pyramid as one of increasing levels of order.

At ground-level we are presented with a chaos of details, but as we move upwards these begin to disappear from view. Movement becomes stillness; chaos becomes order. It is not that there is no movement, only that we are no longer able to perceive as much of it.

What this shows us is that the more we abstract - the further we move up the pyramid - the more we are able to hold things still (or to fool ourselves into thinking that we have done so). Looked at this way, our concepts are ways of solidifying, or fixing things.

This may explain the comfort that some people find in general concepts or overarching stories that appear to explain (hold together) many seemingly separate things. The chaos of change can be bewildering, and we all, to some extent, seek the comfort of solid ground, and the sanctuary of strong walls. However, the more a story seeks to include (the more abstract is the concept) the less in touch with empirical reality it becomes (the further it gets from ground-level).

4. Resolution


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"Touching base"
"Head in the clouds"
"Can't see the forest for the trees"
"Seeing the bigger picture"
"Keep it real"
Being "well grounded"

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Main posts:-
The Pyramid
Only Playing
The Real Thing
Digging Deeper
Scale
A Higher Power