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Multiple personality order

November 29, 2013

When a man finds himself on the simple, logical, and convincingly winning side of an argument with his wife, all is lost and the end is at hand. From the 1983 movie, War Games, starring a young Matthew Broderick, "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."
Simplicity often presents itself wearing a mask of purity. Simplicity is not the same thing as purity. Do not be fooled. It's true that purity brings with it a convenient aura of goodness that few will dispute, but what kind of purity are we talking about here? Are we talking about purity of thought, of goodness, of gold, or of chocolate… or are we talking about the purity of a people – one people, one race, one religion?
Not long ago, a friend wrote, "when can we get back to being one people… one nation?" People, and perhaps whole nations of people, differ greatly along this continuum of simplicity versus complexity. To the extent that a person or a people embrace simplicity or complexity in how they view and define themselves, the entire societal landscape moves in concert along this continuum.
Some people do view themselves, and their societies, in very simple terms, and wish for this view to be accurate. Others see themselves and their societies as best defined by a lack of definition… as fuzzy, fluid, flexible, and open to change. The first of these two viewpoints is doomed to failure in realizing any more than a very simple measure of success. The second declares a soft and quiet boldness in its lack of clarity. Complexity, lack of certainty, dynamic relationships characterize a people comfortable with society as a work in progress, and rich in potential.
Clear, singular, and fixed definitions work well to a point… and in some matters very well. There is a valid and valuable argument to be made for working a framework of universal truths and universal values. Character and moral foundations do need to be intact before anything good can happen. If you don't stand for anything… well, then… just sit down! You have nothing to offer. Beyond what are very few universal truths and values, however, I imagine we're back again, operating in the land of myth. When the real landscape, as different from the conjured landscape, morphs its way out from underneath prevailing mythology, those clinging to a fixed and mythical framework are suddenly and shockingly out in the cold and rather out of luck in the mittens and mukluks department.
Clarity, singularity, and fixed definitions lead straight to ideology. Ideology, in turn, leads straight to conflict. Absent the staking out of simple ideological positions, we would not live in such a polarized world. Absent ideology, people in conflict would see much more the many points they hold in common with one another, rather than only those very few points in contention.
When I first read the term, 'multiple personality order,' it jarred me – 'order' not 'disorder'. I thought immediately that this must be a typo, but it was not. It was more of Einstein's "Everything should be as simple as it can be but not simpler." It was more of holding diametrically opposed thoughts in your head at the same time. It was the sacrifice of clarity. We are textured and complex creatures, not smooth and simple. We don't live in compartments so we should stop boxing ourselves unnecessarily into simple categories, alliances, political parties, and monolithic (a.k.a. handcuffed) thinking.
Simplify, but not past the point of practicality. This is a life of uncertainty, very complex, very non-linear, very messy… and as a result, potentially very rich. It's not easy, but insofar as we give play to our multiple personalities, and those of our various collectives (family, team, community, global village), our potential for fulfilling experience may be all the greater.
Simplicity can be a great enabler of decision making. This is true, but only to a point. Simplicity, applied judiciously, can be effective in: eliminating background noise; clearing the path to a better choice; and freeing us to move on to other more pressing matters. On the other hand, simplicity overdone will also eliminate critical points of consideration, leading often to flawed decisions and faulty outcomes.
Simplify but do not confuse simplicity with linearity or with logic or with purity. They are not the same.
Man and woman are both human, but they are not the same. Only one of them is simple.
Consider logic, then. A close friend insists that logic is and should be the dominant, if not the only consideration in making decisions. Nonsense, I say, without hesitation… but why is it nonsense?
I wonder now if I can disabuse myself of linear argument by way of linear argument. Well… here goes. If logic were the correct and only path, we'd no longer be in need of thinking. Every necessary thought progression would already be available to us from the recorded past or from some powerful computer program. Logic is linear. Logic is singular. Logic leads to only one outcome. If logic were the one and only path, we'd have no need for such terms as, "compelling argument" or "force of argument." We'd be governed instead by historical reasoning. Or maybe we'd be governed by a group of old white men sitting in a room making all of our decisions for us.
Compelling argument, or the force of one's argument, then, must exist only to overcome illogical obstacles like emotional fixation, "But, Papa – I really want one!".
He that complies against his will
Is of his own same opinion still. (Samuel Butler)
If logic held such purity in command over righteousness as some would have us believe, there would be no disputes in the world. Argument, itself, would not exist.
We pay disproportionate attention to those things most easily measured. What cannot be expressed in linear terms is marginalized. This doesn't mean, I would contend, that what is expressed in linear terms is any more important than the so-called immeasurable. It means that we turn, by default, to things we can more easily put our finger on. Unfortunately, because we understandably focus on the easily measured, we mistakenly assign lesser value and importance to things not so easily measured. This is the innate structural flaw of logic and of monolithic thinking. Its prominence squeezes out the alternative.

Kevin Graham

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