Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity

I managed to catch up with a friend yesterday who is a big fan of the writing of David Foster Wallace. I had watched most of (the plane landed) 'The End of the Tour' recently and asked him what he thought. Movies have to create a story. One of the themes of Wallace's thinking was the 'Double Bind' that some writers have. They want to write about normal things and not appear to pretend to have things sorted out, or to be putting themselves on a pedestal, and yet to say something helpful or useful or meaningful, you have to put yourself out there. Put views out that may be a solution. The spinning wheel of self-reflection will mean you always think you are wrong, but have to carry on. 

My friend spoke of life being a combination of uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. We need to accept that we simply aren't capable of understanding everything. Of finding an answer. We can't always know in advance what 'the right thing to do is'. There aren't simple links of cause and effect. Things are never clear. There are always tradeoffs, advantages, disadvantages, costs, benefits, doubts, hopes, fears, opportunity costs and difficulties. 

I like that way of describing it and would add the idea of noise. There are lots of things that happen for no reason. That happen simply because they can. That aren't part of a narrative. Often those things are wonderful moments that come and go. That can be savoured and released. Often they are painful. They happen parallel to the story. They bump the story off course.

Patterns are fun. Patterns create stories and I think they are the only way we can view the world. It is how we are wired. Life is a combination of fact and fiction. We can join the dots in the way that we find most amusing. Most meaningful. We can create the life we want through our stories with occasional reality checks.

We will never understand. That doesn't really matter. No one will. Just keep on keeping on.

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