Difficult Concepts #0: A Prelude

Difficult Concept #0

There are "difficult concepts", which can provide enormous value when we explore, experience, and act through them, but which we can never bring entirely within our reach.

Welcome to a new series of muses, the difficult concepts series, to which this is the prelude. As always with the muses, these are improv, and as such provisional and partial and performance.

In my life, I have encountered some ideas that seem to, on the one hand, provide enormous value to me as insight or inspiration or idea-fountain, but on the other hand, stubbornly resist me on three fronts: reduceability, readiness-to-hand, and closure.

I’ve no single unified purpose in sharing them. Among other reasons, i’m doing it because it amuses me, because it’s connected to my work as a coach, because it might help others.

Take them how you will, use them how you will, but do know my preference is that you remember kindness above all other values.

Irreducability, then. What I mean by this is that the stuff these ideas give me never quite turns in to anything I can mechanize or axiomatize. No matter how hard I try, they never produce for me a system of smaller more manageable more easily manipulated elements.

I find this amazing & frustrating by turn. I’m the most analytical of people. I live for ideas and for teasing them apart and forming them into systems of tight little well-bounded and well-defined elements.

But here, with these difficult concepts, I fail & fail.

Unreadiness-to-hand: what I mean by this is that, tho i’ve spent years wrestling with some of these concepts, they are not embedded in my daily awareness, the way others are. Instead, when they push themselves forward in my mind, they are always a surprise.

My ideas as parts of a toolkit I (sometimes) use to move around in the world, to greater or lesser effectiveness. My hand reaches for them, and it just finds them. They’re just "there", ready for me to grab and use. But these difficult ideas? They don’t do that.

In order to bring them in to play in some situation, I seem to always have to stop, stop hard, and search through the toolkit looking for something — anything — that might be of use. They just aren’t always ready to me, the way most of my ideas are.

Finally, closure: I don’t feel like I am now or ever have been (or ever will be?) just done thinking about these difficult ideas. They seem like mines that never get played out.

There are ideas i’ve come across that feel like i’m just done making use of them. Maybe they were good, maybe they were bad. Maybe i’ve integrated them, maybe i’ve tossed them out. Either way, the only time I bring them out to re-think them is when i’m feeling nostalgic.

But these difficult ideas? I feel like every time I am drawn to them they unfold differently to me. They make or don’t make sense to me in a different way than they did the last time I looked closely at them.

They sometimes seem to tell me "the same thing," but at other times head me off in a completely different direction. They seem like trusted-but-crazy friends. I’m safe around them, but i’ve no idea what they’re gonna do next. They seem perenially open.

So. Difficult concepts, irreducible-to-me, unready-to-me, open-to-me, yet seem to provide me with a great deal of value. They help me move in the world. And I want to share them, for the several reasons above and for others unmentioned.

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