The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Covering the eyes

Notebooks are a nice way to capture thoughts as they appear. It doesn’t matter how thoughtful or useful these thoughts are, the act of writing them down makes them tangible. The act of writing as many of them down as we can, creates an endless reservoir of ideas we can interconnect, review, shape, and build upon. It makes these notebooks a good reminder of the process it takes to come to an idea and from there to a meaningful contribution.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799) a German physicist, satirist, and Anglophile is remembered for his scrapbooks. He started writing them as a student and continued writing them until his death, collecting ideas that struck him, autobiographical sketches, and short or long reflections. While known as one of the best aphorists he is not widely read. As the German introduction to his aphorisms states, this might be due to his style of writing. It is one that is not directed at thoughtful readers but at reflective readers. There are fewer of the latter.

Which may have become even more true today. A fast-paced world easily invites a reflexive approach to work, even more so under the assumption, that performance depends on the ability to making fast decisions. Using such an approach people find a solution in becoming more intuitive in their decision-making process. Which they can achieve by relying on experience and past decision-making scenarios.

However, a fast-changing world also implies, that the context within which people are acting is constantly changing. A changed context brings the necessity to review our existing experience in the light of the new environment. It means to remain aware of the context and how it impacts decisions. New contexts require connecting the dots instead of repeating existing processes.

Seeing change requires attention and the ability to deal with the uncertain.

A keen observer of human nature, Lichtenberg described how easy it is for humans to overlook the meaning of not seeing something.

“Man has an irresistible urge to believe that he cannot be seen if he cannot see anything. Like the children who cover their eyes so as not to be seen.”

Or in its German version:

“Der Mensch hat einen unwiderstehlichen Trieb, zu glauben, man sähe ihn nicht, wenn er nichts sieht. Wie die Kinder die die Augen zuhalten um nicht gesehen zu werden.” – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

The result is a flawed sense of security.


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