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inquiring systems for permaculture designers
cornflower

Unintended Consequences

Several years ago, when asked to invent a theory of how to achieve personal success, I placed writing at the center of my theory. So I proposed (perhaps not particularly originally but nevertheless I said) that a person increased his or her chances of achieving personal success, when that person wrote down his or her goals.

To begin with, now, of course, I smile gently at myself, so obviously fixated on the craft of writing I am. I am writing, the ink soaking into vellum, the planets above spinning around their gravity wells. My monomania has perhaps trained my mind with these ideas of writing and now I see the patterns of writing everywhere I turn.

I run across street poets with syncopated words and rappers with big beats and more verve. During my travels I find upon the ground discarded chocolate bar wrappers and, as if about to win the golden ticket for the tour, I un-crumble the worn paper to reveal on the inside romantic poems printed in faded ink with words that have perhaps also faded. The sun and the moon shine as they have for millennia; many writers are in the library today with their journals and graphite pencils.

The typewriter itself is a filter. I muscle that typewriter, and peck and slap and tap. I grip my pen and dispense ink according to physics and anything else that comes to mind. My blog is all virtual slats held together with virtual nails that I pound together with a virtual hammer. I wear rose-colored glasses tinted a writer's cornflower blue. Here, my theory of personal success fails.

I kindly goad myself, that my mind is a pattern-seeking agent. Meaning: I have trained the connections in my brain with thought after thought on the topic of writing. My groove has created a groove amongst my synapses. My bio-programming knows a model that I call Writing. Even in this admission, I cannot help but stamp out the cookie dough with a cookie cutter in the shape of a rabbit in a biplane skywriting.

My writing monomania is an example of the Kantian Inquiring System at work. The mind filters and the filters are interchangeable. Which is to say that I could have been a filmmaker barnstormer.

A Kantian Inquiring System is probably more complex than this (having more working parts) but this is enough to see the flaw in this system's performance at truth attaining. Why writing? How do I know which filter to choose? Perhaps painting garners the truth. My theory of personal success is flawed; and, yet here it remains like a old dry bone.

Consider thought, that if the mind filters, perhaps the filters could be changed. For example, one could change one's assumptions. One's assumptions are part of the knowledge-seeker's knowledge-gathering-model. Consider, the cells of a financial spreadsheet, where changing the number in cell D2 (expected rate of inflation) causes a change in the number of cell G2 (expected value of fixed income stream). How you see cell D2 impacts what you see at cell G2. Now, perhaps you need to have another factor in your model, say the possibility that rather than the dollar you will need another currency altogether. Change the model, make it more complex, and the that you see could change. Or, perhaps you care to change the model and make it simpler; what if you view the world through a pocket calculator, an abacus, a stick in the wet sand?

cover of Unbounded MindThe book to read is Ian Mitroff and Harold A. Linstone's The Unbounded Mind; however, in the mix of this theory, the mind is bound. The filter is jammed into place. The "what if" science fiction plot is about a dude in board shorts who always uses the same filter and always assumes the same assumptions. The facts might indicate that it is difficult to interchange the models. Use your own adrenaline for observing multiple perspectives. This morning I could be quite comfortable drinking my coffee and sharpening my pencils upon the tracing paper.

After reading several dozen articles on personal success theories, I understand that it is reasonable to state that the achievement of personal success may also require decisive thought and determined action. For me, these two activities (thought and action) could be combined into the one activity: writing. Thoughts and actions together as a pen is dipped into an ink well and the hand lets the ink splash where it may.

It does not stop there. This pattern unfolds at numerous levels. For example, once you read all of the books on personal success, the trick is to write your own book of personal success, to share what you have learned to the next generation of knowledge seekers. I view personal success in terms of writing because I invert readers and consider them to be writers. It may be the same old filter, but what a filter it is!