Nuance and Paradox

The image above is a screenshot of the definition of the word nuance from the Merriam-Webster dictionary online. In yesterday’s post I mentioned the following:

While these three patients all have leukemia (I’m over-simplifying here – there are different kinds of leukemia!), they also have existing co-morbidities that make it so what works for Patient A, won’t necessarily work for Patient B, nor C.

…..

I know that we’d all like to live in a world where the answer is either 1 OR 2. Unfortunately, we live in a world, where the answer is BOTH 1 AND 2 and every single number in between. And in case you didn’t know, there are an infinite number of rational numbers between any two natural numbers.

Reality is abstract. Reality is full of nuances. Reality is complex.

I wrote a piece in an attempt to emphasize the importance of details, yet I used an over-simplification in the post.

Is there value in the “big-picture”, “umbrella” concepts?

Absolutely.

If we lived in a version of reality where we had ample idle time and we didn’t have to struggle to survive (or sell most of our time away), we could swim in the depths of nuance all day long! However, we live in a world that is ruled by linear time (Anyone familiar with deadlines? 😉 ).

In order to have a society, we all have to agree upon a set of symbols. For example, we use the word tree (the word tree is the symbol here) to agree upon something in our visual field (on this material plane) that is rooted in the ground and typically has some sort of foliage on it. Now, there are different types of trees and a result, trees as a whole may have hundreds of names individually. However, if I were to strike up a conversation with a stranger in Carlsbad, CA (my current home city), chances are that that individual would understand the word ‘tree’. Tree. The word tree is a symbol that simplifies the complexity of the tree-like objects that cross our visual fields on the daily. Imagine if we didn’t have a word to describe a tree? Think about the amount of time that we would waste just trying to communicate! Symbols that we agree upon (such as words), in their many forms, ease the way that we navigate reality.

Now, while symbols have a lot of value in helping us navigate the day to day, they don’t always have depth. Symbols are simplified representations of the whole therefore they are inherently limiting. For example:

Sentence #1: “Yesterday, I drove by a tree. The tree made me feel calm.”

Sentence #2: “Yesterday, I drove by a Syagrus romanzoffiana. Her feathery fronds and smooth trunk calmed my anxiety. It now makes sense to me – why the palm is a symbol of victory, warmth, and expansion.”

While both of these instances paint a situation in which I drove by a tree, they evoke different emotional responses in the reader. The difference in both set of sentences is nuance. The second sentence uses different descriptive adjectives in order to provide more depth into the writer’s inner landscape.

Is it a contradiction to use an over-simplification when asking a reader to pay attention to detail?

No. In yesterday’s post I also mentioned the following: “Unfortunately, we live in a world, where the answer is BOTH 1 AND 2 and every single number in between.” This both I’m referring to is this sentence is something called paradox. Definition from Merriam-Webster dictionary online in the screen shot below:

See! I told ya! Reality is COMPLEX.

PS. Please keep in mind that these are blog posts not dissertations. I’m simply trying to put forth the notion that reality is far more complex than the black or white (logical fallacy) algorithms that flood our social media feeds.

There’s a LOT of range, nuance, and paradox that sits in-between the book-end symbols. Some of the most common logical fallacies I see in the social media feeds:

Liberal OR Conservative

Empath OR Narcissist

Rich OR Poor

Monkey OR Monk Mind

These labels are simply book-ends or extremes that hold space for a spectrum. And at times (with the way they are presented in social media) are gross over simplifications that can tend to stereotyping or “othering” a group of people. There are entire universes in between these extremes. I invite you to explore them.