A small measure of ease in the presence of uncertainty goes a long way
The following articles share topics of interest related to:
attraction for nuance,
appreciation for complexity,
ease in the presence of uncertainty, and
tolerance for ambiguity
Oversimplified ways of seeing
That is to say:
A Feb. 11, 2019 Journalist’s Resource article is entitled: “Cutting through the clutter: What research says about tidying up.”
A Jan. 1, 2020 Mother Jones article is entitled: “Why Silicon Valley Fell in Love With an Ancient Philosophy of Austerity: In the most indulgent and self-satisfied place in America, Stoicism is all the rage.”
A Jan. 3, 2020 Guardian article is entitled: “The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism: From the ‘KonMari method’ to Apple’s barely-there design philosophy, we are forever being urged to declutter and simplify our lives. But does minimalism really make us any happier?”
Seeing like a state
The above-noted articles bring to the concept of seeing like a state, a topic to which I’ve devoted several posts:
Seeing like a state, as conceptualized by the anthropologist and political scientist James C. Scott, is an aggressively oversimplified, pared down way of seeing, in which evidence that is suitable for state officials to see forms the basis for decision making – including, for example, land use decision making.
In many cases, such a way of seeing has led to hugely disastrous long-term consequences, as James C. Scott documents in studies of a range of large-scale, state-driven projects involving millions of people.
That’s because practical knowledge, which is available to an observer at the local level, is frequently ignored when a person engages in characteristic forms of state-level seeing, and state-level decision making.
Similar themes are addressed at a page at the Preserved Stories website entitled:
I am pleased to add that in my experience, mindfulness meditation, which in my mind can be readily separated from belief systems historically associated with it, is of tremendous value and benefit.
Birth of the Pastoral Corporation
The topics at hand bring to mind the pastoral corporation and the machine in the garden aesthetic.
A Dec. 30, 2019 MIT Press Reader article is entitled: “The Birth of the Pastoral Corporation: In contrast to the noisy and diverse city, the suburbs were seen as spacious, segregated, and quiet — a much more promising state of affairs to corporations bent on expansion.”
Even more than Downing, Olmsted regarded the landscape as an instrument of social order. Gently undulating grass, serpentine lakes, sinuous pathways, and leafy woodland groves provided urban dwellers a much-sought-after alternative to the dense industrial city, presumably with salutary moral as well as physical effects. Not intended as a zone of active use, the pastoral public park presented composed scenery for passive viewing. The purpose of this engagement Olmsted described with typical zeal: “No one who has closely observed the conduct of people who visit Central Park can doubt it exercises a distinctly harmonizing and refining influence upon the most unfortunate and lawless of the city — an influence favorable to courtesy, self-control, and temperance.” Urban dwellers proved much more resistant to “harmonizing” than Olmsted expected, and in the face of American pluralism, public parks became more diverse in their activities and accommodations. Nevertheless, as reiterations of Central Park appeared in cities large and small across the United States by the beginning of the 20th century, the enveloping pastoral aesthetic of the public park prevailed and carried with it the equation of pastoral scenery and ameliorative social influence.
High notes that historian Samuel Haynes has labelled the post-Second World War period of rising standards of living and levels of education as ‘the environmental era.’
“In the decades between 1945 and 1984,” says High, “planners incorporated environmental values into factory exteriors, by removing the factory from its former industrial landscape and placing it in ‘natural’ surroundings, either in industrial parks or in the countryside. These greenfield sites – as opposed to older brownfield ones – represented a return to the beginnings of industrialism.
“Just as rural locations has set apart early North American factory sites from the degrading industrial cities of Great Britain, greenfield sites promised to purge the factory system of its reputation for human and environmental degradation. In effect, this was a return to the pastoral ideals of the factory” (pp. 74-75).
“In the late 1940s and early 1950s,” according to High, “an appealing exterior increasingly came to mean pleasant landscaped surroundings” (p. 82).
As early as 1948, the Johnson and Johnson Company “employed a mainly female workforce, a source of cheap, non-unionized labor, and had begun the process of redesigning factory work as white-collar.” Such new factories were small in size, located in rural areas, and “away from congested city areas, away from any ‘industrial slums.'”
A Jan. 8, 2019 Aeon article is entitled: “The Blind Spot: It’s tempting to think science gives a God’s-eye view of reality. But we forget the place of human experience at our peril.”
An excerpt reads:
We can now appreciate the deeper significance of our three scientific conundrums – the nature of matter, consciousness and time. They all point back to the Blind Spot and the need to reframe how we think about science. When we try to understand reality by focusing only on physical things outside of us, we lose sight of the experiences they point back to. The deepest puzzles can’t be solved in purely physical terms, because they all involve the unavoidable presence of experience in the equation. There’s no way to render ‘reality’ apart from experience, because the two are always intertwined.
To finally ‘see’ the Blind Spot is to wake up from a delusion of absolute knowledge. It’s also to embrace the hope that we can create a new scientific culture, in which we see ourselves both as an expression of nature and as a source of nature’s self-understanding. We need nothing less than a science nourished by this sensibility for humanity to flourish in the new millennium.