Complexity to complexity

We use our imagination not to escape reality but to join it, and this exhilarates us because of the distance between our ordinary dulled consciousness and an apprehension of the real.*
(Iris Murdoch)

we transgress not because we build the new but because we don’t allow ourselves to consider what it disrupts or diminishes. We are not in trouble because of invention but because we think it will solve everything**
(Sherry Turkle)

I may have mentioned this before.

I was once involved in setting up a walk-through experience of communication through the ages. Based on Rex Miller’s book The Millennium Matrix, four spaces were created to mark the ages of communication: oral, print, pixels and bits and bytes. In between each of these were liminal spaces marking the transitional times of change.

Seven rooms in all.

I was part of the group of guides helping others to pass through each and pointing out to those who completed the journey that they now knew something others did not – tens of thousands of years of human tradition to call on when understanding and creating the new present.

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) defines competence in this way:

Competence is the ability to meet important challenges in life in a complex world.^

Increasingly complex times means change is happening more rapidly then ever, the liminal spaces appearing greater than those they connect. Yet we are complexity, too. Diverse individuals and communities bringing imagination to bear on reality.

As in all things, this complexity doesn’t express itself without practise, and this is perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face: to utilise our own complexity.

Some of the most important depth we can give to competency is to know something of our human past, how we have faced great challenges and overcome, finding ourselves possible of more than resilience. Rebecca Solnit caught my attention when describing her friend Marine, whose musical competency is deep, providing a metaphor for our imagination and how we hone it:

Marine was too interested in being a musician to be a real three-chord punk rocker, so she gravitated towards the more ornate and les ideological realms of rock and roll proper. She had a surprising knowledge of obscure cultural things, not only the classical music that had been part of her family’s life since a great-grandfather had hung out with great composers. She’d suddenly describe someone as having a beard like De Sade’s, empty an obscure term, wax lyrical about the baroque era or Saint Anthony’s temptations. I remember the delight she took in the profusely illustrated Audubon insect guide she acquired when she was living in Santa Monica, her fascination with the exotic species crawling around that subtropical global crossroads.^^

(*From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)
(**From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(^The OECD, quoted in Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester’s Dancing at the Edge.)
(^^From Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost.)

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