Critical Thinking on a Sunday

So, How Is Your Thinking?

Back then when linking things up in a tangential way that stripped back hidden connecting layers and generated deeper thought The Sunday Read was born.

Over the course of seven years it came out each Sunday, evolving and changing as we did, until it couldn’t (or at least I was unwilling to make it change further).

This is no attempt to revive it. I already write articles and opinion pieces on several different platforms, I am still writing books (because I feel I have something meaningful to say) and I am still bringing out videos and podcasts. The point is that creating more content is not something I crave because I already create more than I feel, some days, my audience can consume.

So this is different. How? Well, for a start there is no real structure to this beyond the loose assembly of links I put together to create an ontology of sorts that will absorb some of your time, increase the opportunity for you to come across content you may have never found in a different way (the engineered serendipity factor) and broaden your horizons beyond your current work or social bubble.

Whereas The Sunday Read of the past, whose tendency to use the linking principle made possible by our technology to take Teodora Petkova’s idea of intertextuality to a new level, used interlinking to explore a subject I was explaining in greater depth, the text I am putting in place now, each Sunday, is designed to help you improve your thinking.

In that direction it may, at times, be more guided and much more narrow in scope than The Sunday Read was. It may feel a little more formal in approach at times. A little more pedantic. A little deeper (precisely because it’s narrower) and, occasionally, a little uncomfortable to read. It will also sometimes, feel like a very close relative of the The Sunday Read, which predated it.

None of this is without design. The Sunday Read was organic. Despite the rigor I brought to it, it was informal, loose and playful because I used it to share states of my own mind that mirrored those sentiments. As Dorothy would say “we ain’t in Kansas anymore.”

What’s changed is, simply, everything. The pandemic, social network filter bubbles, our values, our approach and our willingness to experiment with new things as we grapple with a new reality.

This emerging ‘new’ reality is actually the future. The future is always ‘here’ but, as William Gibson famously noted “it’s not very evenly distributed.” It’s uneven distribution is down to inequalities that arise out of access to opportunity. The same elements that keep people poor conspire to keep some people locked into the past and others pushed into the future.

The past always occupies the present, until it doesn’t.

Opportunity holds the promise of success, status and security. The exact 3Ss that are enjoyed by the established order of things which battles change so that things can remain the same for it. That ‘order’ and I use the term loosely because it is actually created out of the systems we put in place, support and use, is intended to wrap us all up safely in a proverbial cotton ball of perceived security.

Do you want to enjoy a better life than your parents? It asks. Educate yourself. It answers and then seductively offers us a selection of august bodies that will perform that task for us. Do you want to be a respected member of society? Get a job, keep out of trouble, raise a family, don’t rock the boat, enjoy your retirement. It conveniently leaves out “until you die” because it would break the seductiveness of the perceived security of the mantra.

Death ends us. That much we can all agree on, regardless of what we believe happens after. That ought to galvanize us. It ought to make us restless, agitated, sleepless. We ought to be asking constantly what’s next and why now? If we were actually asking these two questions we’d have to deal with the uncomfortable truth that no one can really answer them for us.

Working things out for ourselves is hard. We need others for that. The realization that we need others may change the way we operate and that will most probably change the way we learn which may reduce the bias inherent in our thinking. And that may lead us to challenge the status quo sooner rather than later, and rock the boat, and ask questions to which there are no answers. And that will simply not do.

The pandemic has made us all equally squirrelly. It has leveled the playing field of our perception. It has changed our expectations.

It’s a lot to take in. Yet, when perception and expectations change so does the reality we experience. The ability of established entities to hold us in thrall wanes and, occasionally, disappears. The past vacates the present. This creates an equal-opportunity-for-all environment for us to experience the future, primarily because there is no one authoritative enough, any more, to tell us not to.

The future is always uncertain. This makes it scary. It also makes it exciting. To navigate the future we need a couple of truly basic things: A. A complete knowledge of how to behave in every moment we encounter and B. A reliable way of fathoming what happens next.

We really do not have either of those. So, what’s left to us instead? Two things of which neither on its own is enough: A. Ourselves. B. Each other. Neither of these is to be used in “case of emergency” because now we are living in the emergency.

The world is changing. Human behavior and values are changing. Culture is changing. Civilization is changing. The global climate is changing. On our own, we can never hope to deal with any of this. We are just not enough. ‘Together’ as a collective of like-minded individuals bent to a single purpose like a finely-honed, well-orchestrated machine we will fail.

As, the late general Patton said: “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.

So, my new direction in writing. This fresh effort you will enjoy each Sunday, is designed to help you think better as individuals and work better with others even when those others are different to yourself.

To achieve sometimes I will be prescriptive. Occasionally, I will be very direct (read: raw) in my approach. My reasoning is that if we can strip the layers of camouflage that allow us to hide and not commit so that we can avoid taking responsibility for our actions (or inactions) we are fully capable of thinking better, making better decisions and taking better actions.

The world taking place now is not a thing we discover but a construct we create. Us. We. Each day. Every day. If we do everything right it will be different.

That may be a leap too far. Maybe. But we can do things better. If “right” is an impossible task because it requires too much of everything (too much thinking, too much compromise, too much planning, too much organization), I will settle for better. We all want to do better.

And it has to start with what’s going on inside our head. Today. Now.

Enjoy your Sunday.

I am the petri dish of my life experiment.

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