the advantage of the incomprehensible

 

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“The advantage of the incomprehensible is that it never loses its freshness.”

Paul Valéry

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“The moment you decide an event is impossible and therefore stop directing your attention to it is the moment when it will take place.”

General Petro Grigorenko

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“This may be the most important proposition revealed by history: ‘At the time, no one knew what was coming.”

Haruki Murakami

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Well.

I have had several discussions about the future in one day and it continuously surprises me on how confident people are with regard to what will, or will not, happen. I find it slightly incomprehensible until I remember that the incomprehensible, in all its forms, has a certain allure.

The incomprehensible has a certain freshness of inevitable believability that some people are addicted to <and blind to the possibility it will never happen>.

Uh oh.

The incomprehensible has a certain inevitable un-believability that some people are married to (and blind to the possibility it could actually occur>.

The incomprehensible appeals to both those convinced it will never happen and to those who are convince it will happen.

Now. That said. We attack the incomprehensible in a variety of ways trying to comprehend it.

 

Research/experimenting: https://explorable.com/design-of-experiment

Innovation methodology: stage gating as an example https://www.stage-gate.com/resources_stage-gate_full.php

 

Pick your “assessing likelihood of incomprehensible” methodology but, well, 90% of new businesses fail, over 60% of new products fail and The Law of Unintended Consequences guarantees the unforeseen is almost more likely to happen than the foreseen. Even all that knowledge doesn’t slow us down one bit with our love/hate relationship with the unknown – the incomprehensible. We love the thought of finding something that seemed incomprehensible. We love that ‘holy shit’ feeling.

Here is the weird thing. All that said we plan our days to the minute, plan projects and tasks in excruciating detail and ‘plan out’ to eliminate any risk and uncertainty and incomprehensible we can feasibly plan out.

I would point out that all this really does is foster the timeless tradition of second guessing and seeking blame as soon as the incomprehensible occurs.

Regardless.

The incomprehensible always remains fresh because, as a Life truth, it consistently confirms to us that at no time no one knew what was coming.

Yup.

You can be pessimistic <and be proven right … or wrong>.

You can be optimistic <and be proven right … or wrong>.

But, in general, before being proven anything you are guessing. Sure. You can make an educated guess, and the odds may be higher or lower based on what you decide to do, but someone is lying if they say “I knew it was going to end up that way” … or “we should have seen that coming.”

That’s bullshit. We do not know. We often guess <sometimes well, sometimes not so well> under the guise of planning. Maybe worse is we often guess under the guise of ‘scrutinizing history.’

Uh oh. A fact.

 

‘History teaches by analogy, not identity.’

<Hank Kissinger … Hank to me>

 

People tend to mistake a study of history, or a historical moment, for proof of what is to come and, in fact, it sure does look like a frickin’ smart thing to do when going backwards in time and connecting dots <even when the connection is tenuous at best>. But, just a reminder about what Hank said: History teaches by analogy, not identity. This means that the lessons of history are never automatic or formulas for the future. The truth is that they can be apprehended only by admitting the significance of a range of multidimensional factors <unique context matters> and that the answers we obtain will never be better than the questions we pose.

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“From this, one can make a deduction which is quite certainly the ultimate truth of jigsaw puzzles: despite appearances, puzzling is not a solitary game: every move the puzzler makes, the puzzlemaker has made before; every piece the puzzler picks up, and picks up again, and studies and strokes, every combination he tries, and tries a second time, every blunder and every insight, each hope and each discouragement have all been designed, calculated, and decided by the other.”

Georges Perec, Life A User’s Manual

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Like it or not situations exist in time more than in space. At any given moment a moment is but a collection of individuals & things bringing to bear all their collective experiences & things. Reassembling that multi-dimension of ‘collective’ is nigh impossible. What this means is that when viewing past incomprehensible, trying to make it comprehensible, you will find it is contingent to a unique set of factors.

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“For the lessons of historical experience, as of personal experience, are contingent.

They teach the consequences of certain actions, but they cannot force recognition of comparable situations.

Henry Kissinger

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Uhm. Cannot force recognition of comparable situations.  This is why I scratch my head when soe people are so sure on the future. If the incomprehensible is continegnt upon a nieq e set of factors than you would have to eb able to loking tnt some crystal ball which unravels what will BE unique (that is impossible isn’t it?) to see what the future configuarn of contingent factors.

That’s nuts. No one can do that.

In the end.

I believe all of us would probably like to have a better sense of how to plan for the future and to better understand the best and proper actions to take to maximize the future in some form or fashion.

Therefore we do the best we can, most often that means examining the past to assess actions affecting the future, trying to understand consequences for our decisions yet to be made. The intent is good and true.

However. We should never confuse honest intent with ‘what is right.’

We simply hear the echoes of footsteps but never meet their owners until they actually enter our lives. And, frankly, you cannot control all that ‘are coming by and by into our lives.’ At each point in time no one knew what was coming, therefore, no one can truly know what is coming. I imagine it is helpful for us to remind ourselves on occasion that just when we are absolutely positively 100% sure that something is impossible or incomprehensible — it occurs.

Here is the thing about the incomprehensible. We don’t know what we don’t know AND we don’t know half of what we really do know. It is difficult to accept the fact that today, in the moment, in the middle of change, no one … let me repeat … NO ONE has the right answer. We are simply asking the right questions at the moment and doing our best to adapt as we learn.

Change is about adapting.

Sure. Having a vision is good and there are multiple ways to reach the ‘end game. But, in the end, change is change and the incomprehensible is the incomprehensible. Plus. If we knew exactly what the change was and what was needed and what was truly incomprehensible & what wasn’t, well, we would be really smart sonuvabitches, wouldn’t we ?

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Prouver que j’ai raison serait accorder que je puis avoir tort. -Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

Proving that I am right would be admitting that I could be wrong.”

 

 

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Written by Bruce