purposivedrift is enthused about Grant McCracken, who delves in economics and complexity theory, holds a Ph.D. in anthropology and has taught at the Harvard Business School. McCracken writes about fearless noticing:
“…I found myself telling these young planners about the time I sat beside Marshall Sahlins, professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago, as he read one of my papers. Professor Sahlins was traveling at speed through my paper, not because it was well written but because not even bad writing could slow him down. Suddenly, he stopped absolutely dead in his tracks and said, ‘hm, I wonder why that is.’
“I was watching a very smart man acknowledge the limits of understanding. You could almost hear him thinking, ‘why can’t I think this?’
“This is the secret of noticing. Spotting things that defy expectation, things that don’t ‘compute.’ The temptation for the rest of us is to ‘fake the results’ and assimilate the anomalous to existing categories.”
McCracken asserts, “Good noticers are fearless noticers.”
Years ago I coined an equation to help describe ‘why can’t I think this?’.
information overload equals information retrieval
I began to think that when the mind encounters a limit of its intelligence, it instantly begins to gather additional resources, seemingly diverting blood flow and energy from other parts of our body inducing a temporary queesiness, a quick exhaustion often called ‘information overload’.
But I also noticed that though ‘information overload’ may be a true and real feeling, it wasn’t the brain that was feeling it; the queesiness was elsewhere. Instead, new material was being formulated, bringing some new likelihood to learning – often much much later.
One of my favorite exercises in thinking is to gaze into a stary night, propelling along tube after tube of photons toward the vast calendar of stars, where only moments pass until I am utterly overwhelmed and instantly ignorant! There is a simultaneous and distinct event – reaching the limit of intelligence within my puny momentary center of infinity – where thinking seems to stop. Is this when new information gathers?
along the way from plankton to pulsar…
To live with life an ally
and all the earth its winking crew
and all the heavens supervise.
I received honors grades for a photo essay I submitted when a student called ‘the moment is infinity’, but as a typical student, I lost the book during one of too many times moving from place to place. Anyone find it?
May we, as if a star, use our hope to breathe:
When the self can loft the mind and, hence, the mind does wire the body in some mimic’d perfection, it is as if all spills upon us, both inside and out, pouring what’s best called adventure to test the courages.
Here’s to recognizing amidst the blinding dark infinity
the sweet triumph of every step we carve from this froth of earth.