Conceptual Monologue

We search to find concepts
To explain things,
Then confuse the concept
With the thing,
Forgetting that concepts are just
Explanatory devices.

For instance,
There is no such thing
As what “all women think”,
Or “how all men act”
In a given situation.

Concepts, even scientific models,
Make things simpler than
They really are;
Substituting Athenian elegance
For the statistical uncertainties
Of real life.

Even the mathematics of uncertainty
Has been invaded by the
Proselytizers of certainty;
Saying, “If you have enough of this,
And enough of that,
And enough of the other thing,
You have certainty.”

Only,
We never have enough
Of this, that, or the other thing.
No matter,
We go on to make
Confident predictions,
Dressing up our medicine-man show
In the trappings of mathematics,
In much the same way
Of other con-men through the ages.

Concepts *are* things,
But they are neither identical to nor greater than
The things they purport to explain.

We seem to be psychologically conditioned
For the use of heuristics;
“Rules-of-thumb” that only need to be true
Most days to be useful.
Things like:
“If it rains on weekends after the equinox,
It will rain on weekends up until the solstice.”

If it then rains 9 of 13 weekends,
We feel justified in saying what we said:
Even if the results are no different
Than what might be generated by
An entirely random process.

Why do two people’s bodies,
Subject to similar lifestyles and stresses,
Break down at different speeds?
We look for general answers
Where only specific answers will do.

Because we think
Once we “know” a thing,
We can control it.
And the hard work of understanding
Things, places, and people,
In all their individual complexity,
Is one we often eschew for
The quick route of simplicities.

But it is only in
Individuality that anything
Of importance exists:
When you are talking about
Your children, you call them
By name.
You don’t just classify them as
“Kids”, “Millennials”, or “Gen-C”,
They are who they are,
As people.

There is no empathy in concepts,
Only dismissive generality,
And the idea that others (not us)
Obey scientific laws.

The Science of Understanding

I keep trying to figure this out.

I study hard
To try and see
The reasons why
That you and me –
In anything
We do at all –
Will stumble first,
And lastly fall.

The world is wide,
And we are small.
The plans we make –
They often stall.
For “Life” there’s no
Master’s Degree;
Why do we keep
Such certainty?

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Picture / photo credit : © Dmytro Kozlov | Dreamstime.com