Confucius confused

This essay is meant as a frenetic and chaotic kaleidoscope of ways of approaching a topic. It has the unabashed intention of confusing you. If it succeeds then the fun can begin. Reading and understanding is a form of wrestling. Education is an intensely violent sport. But here is a bit of sensible advice: This essay can do no more than hang out a few delicious carrots. Each concept given is the subejct of a whole library of books written about it. If you are interested in familiarising yourself further with any of the concepts mentioned below, look them up. Look them up first in encyclopaedia’s, dictionaries of philsophy, of the mind and of ideas, look them up on the internet and then, if your interest persists and takes on serious forms, find articles and books on the subject.


Thinking has everything to do with preserving what is childlike within us. Thinking is all about play and having fun. You should Read Stephen Jay Gould on the subject.[1] People who do not explore and play have settled into habits. They have grown up and are lost to the cause of expansion and potential. Habit, though useful to support grown-up life, is fatal to creative thought if it is allowed to dominate. The blind domination of habit is what creative thought has to challenge. Habit and creative thought live in a dangerous tension with each other, they can’t live without each other, but at the same time their co-habitation is what might be called “a lively marriage”.


Language is the crude manifestation of thought. Language is thought made visible. Get the language wrong and it starts getting in the way of your thinking, or at the very least in the communication of your thought. That is a problem. Let me explain.


Thinking is what we do when we scan the world around us and measure new impressions against our experience. We look for patterns. We try to make connections. We take risks; we use chance. This way we can challenge and adjust habit, challenge assumptions that have become accepted in habit, we can see in a new way. How does seeing things in a new way help us? After all, the world is in a mess.


That mess has everything to do with real creativity and technological development mixed with human inertia and ignorance. That mess also has everything to do with the realisation that technological progress cannot always be equated with the increase of human happiness:


“The expectation that every new discovery of refinement of existing means must contain the promise of higher values or greater happiness is an extremely naive thought...It is not in the least paradoxical to say that a culture may founder on real and tangible progress.” Johan Huizinga[2]


So what are we to do? Sit still? Not on your life! We might be on the inexorable path to self-destruction, but I love watching people’s creativity in find new ways of desroying themselves. After all life is all about death anyway. In any case, technology now turns out to be the best way to solve its own mess! This paradox has everything to do with humans playing with thought and observation, trying to see patterns, trying to make connections, penetrating beyond appearances and seeing things in a new way. We may have brought ourselves to the edge of disasters, but we have also brought ourselves to the edge of great mysteries. Who knows what lies in store for us? For this reason thinking, creative and critical thinking, is a legitimate and recommended occupation, which can lead to a new approach to design, as well as a new understanding of our position. Both are useful for making decisions.

[1] Steven Jay Gould, “The Child as Man’s Real Father,” in: Ever Since Darwin, Reflections in Natural History, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1991 (1978) pp. 63-69.

[2] I got this quote from Julie-Ann Richards article on “Hellshire Beach”, AXIS 3, 1999, and do not know where she got it from!