Saturday, June 12, 2010

On clouds. Sort of.

If I count my college friends and their current careers, I am not joking when I say that all of them (ten or more) are currently employed as teachers, counselors or youth workers. I do think this is something of an anomaly, but still, crazy.  It was amazing to live life with people whose passions overlapped so deeply with my own.  

Obviously the world opened up in a million different ways when I moved to New York seven years ago.  One of which is that I made friends in every field possible: finance, consulting in every capacity, fashion, art, real estate, non profits, law.  Being around all these different kinds of people only enhanced my nerd-like nature and made me want to be constantly learning more.  It has been through knowing such a group of diversified interests that has fueled my interest in uncovering the need the world has for a balance of macro thinkers (simply, how the world needs to change and operate on a large scale) and micro thinkers (how the world needs to change and operate on a small scale). 

I am a micro person.  My best skills are found in a single classroom of thousands in Brooklyn alone.  My best moments in my career typically occur while having a conference with a thirteen year old student about a book they read or a story they wrote.  But, my current theory is that micros need to be macro-ly aware and macros need to be micro-ly aware. 

So. Finally, my point. Literature lends itself to knowing more about both.  Therefore, everyone should read more books. 

I have been on a historical kick lately.  I'm currently reading two books about Vietnam: All the Broken Pieces (young adult) by Ann E. Burg and The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.  I am learning the broad strokes of the war, through the narratives themselves and the research they have both led me to: causes, complications, perspectives from both sides.  And then, obviously, there are the stories of the characters where the Vietnam war begins to have faces, reminding the reader that war is intensely personal and involves hearts and hopes, devastation and destruction.   A good friend of mine  recently posted a quotation on his blog, via Wired Magazine, that I haven't been able to get out of my mind for some time: 

"Karl Popper, the great philosopher of science, once divided the world into two categories: clocks and clouds. Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; clouds are an epistemic mess, “highly irregular, disorderly, and more or less unpredictable.” The mistake of modern science is to pretend that everything is a clock, which is why we get seduced again and again by the false promises of brain scanners and gene sequencers. We want to believe we will understand nature if we find the exact right tool to cut its joints. But that approach is doomed to failure. We live in a universe not of clocks but of clouds."

I think, that if are to move forward as a people, be it in energy, poverty, healthcare or education, we have to remember that we are a universe of clouds: we cannot figure it all out in a theoretical equation, but without the theoretical equation we may not be able to progress.  I also think that if we all read more books, the world would be a better place. Just saying. 

Anyway. These are just thoughts. 


stef shaffer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stef shaffer said...

i wouldn't say "just" thoughts...

love you