Sunday, July 31, 2011


Two of the most useful diagrams for thinking that I know about are the Venn diagram, which is two or more overlapping circles to show which things are shared and which things are not,  and the quadrants -- the four-paned window like the one Joe and Harry figured out and called “the Johari window.”  It’s really just two perpendicular variables, like an xy graph, and how they sort things out.  For Joe and Harry it was “things you know about yourself and everyone else knows about you/ things you don’t know about yourself that everyone else knows/ things you know about yourself that no one else knows/ things you don’t know about yourself and neither does anyone else.
Today I ran into two new versions of quadrant diagrams.  One was about art versus artifacts, how objects get moved from one category to the other (valuable to not-valuable as well as from art to artifacts and vice versa of both).  Actually, it was two quadrants, one nested inside the other.  I’ll come back to that in a future post.
The other was a thing called cynefin, which is supposed to be Welsh.  Here’s one explanation that’s very nice.    

We are so hungry for effective tools that will sort out ideas.  The people using this as a sorting mechanism seem to be cleaning up doing workshops among the quizzical, but there IS some value to it.   For instance, I’m trying hard to understand Heart Butte, partly because I’ve been working on the manuscript I call “Heartbreak Butte,” and partly because the U.S. post office wants to remove their post office, which is a travesty of an idea since that little hamlet is totally dependent on the post office and suffers even if it has a tyrant for a postmaster.   Not having a post office would be a stake through their heart.
I see a strong resemblance between this sorting system and a previous book I’m still digesting, called “Five Percent.”  The idea of that book is that most problems might be difficult, but they can be solved.  But five percent of them are so complex and hidden in crucial aspects that they are insoluble.  Not that that should keep anyone from thinking about them.  I thought about taking on the present national politics and decided that was far beyond me.  That doesn’t really mean that Heart Butte is less complex or even that much different, so this seemingly small problem is worthwhile.  Not seeing it as worthwhile is part of the problem.
The bottom right quadrant (which is where the Piegan Blackfeet reservation is -- the two relevant perpendicular lines being the Rocky Mountains and the 49th parallel) is labeled “simple.”  About the only thing that stays in place in Heart Butte is the Rockies, although erosion carved Heart Butte out of its side.  The weather is controlled by this cordillera as well as the latitude, so that the “snow line” is often at just about the level of the village, but varies quite a lot.  This is a flood plain, which is crucial to the history of development.  Next to Heart Butte are national parks and national forest, which allows some people to be guides and to hunt, but also opens up issues about the “ceded strip,” which is more history.  The simplest theme is that Heart Butte is a jurisdictional place in a geological place, with the two types of order interacting as two main variables.  (There we go again.  Another quadrant graph.)
Probably the top righthand quadrant ought to go to that “complicated” issue of jurisdiction:  boundaries, sovereignty, education, county/state/federal/corporation/tribal stuff, all interacting and messing with each other.  But much of it is written down, at least, in laws and regulations that can be and have been interpreted by courts.  I would put in all the issues of infrastructure: the phone, water systems, the school, the clinic, electricity, gas.  I would include the institutional churches but not “spirituality.”  Law and order.  The housing projects.
So then the top lefthand quadrant, "Complex," which is described as “cause and effect coherent in retrospect that repeats accidentally -- but unpredictably."  Here’s where history counts: the choice of the location by the old-timers, the relationship with the metis, the impact of personalities like Chief Bull, Mike Swims Under, and John Tatsey, plus that story-loop about the police officer dragged to death, the sequence and personalities of the priests like Father Mallman or Sister Edna, and maybe there ought to be attention paid to the “natural history” of the wildlife and even plants, livestock and irrigation.  The Flood of 1964 which moved so many out and then returned so many later is a crucial event.  Maybe athletics belong here in a historical way.  The theme would be complexity but in understandable terms, at least looking back.
And the bottom lefthand quadrant is supposed to be "Chaos," which was the flood, but that’s past and we have no idea what might come next.  We tend to think in terms of catastrophe -- plague, fire, an assassin/terrorist, the loss of the post office.  But there might be something good.  It will be fascinating to see what the payout secured by Eloise Cobell will do.  A wave of drug use and drunkeness beyond compare as the gangs I keep hearing about finally prevail?  A village corporation that pools the funds in order to do some remarkable thing?  Pondera County signing that corner of the rez over to Glacier County?  The reservation becoming a free-standing county of its own?   A gold strike in the cemetery?  A strong, focused and charismatic personality taking hold?  A talking circle that calls the youngsters to account and changes their lives?
Or might it be bigger.  The huge earthquake that some say will eventually grip the whole east slope of the Rockies.  The breaking apart of the United States into ecologies which are small enough to administer in a far more specific way.  A new technology that is a source of free energy everywhere.  A cure for diabetes.
Or will it be spiritual, evolutionary, coming out of that lower left quadrant labeled Chaos as pure potential, out of the most chaotic of sources: the human heart.

1 comment:

Old Scrote said...

My family uses and equivalent, which we call a 2x2 chart. It's a great help in assessing the pros and cons of making a choice between alternatives. It doesn't make the decision for you, of course, but it's a way of ensuring that you take all factors, suitable weighted, into account. It helps you to overcome the tendency to overstress the good and suppress the bad.