Bridging poles

Earlier this week, I had the good fortune to discuss neo-generalism in the company of Lucy Moore, Al Smith, Cath Bishop and Ella Saltmarshe at the UK Sport PLx conference in Manchester. This latest addition to the bricolage series pulls together some ideas regarding continuums and pluralism touched upon in passing during our conversation.

Whenever there’s an ending, look for the beginning.
— Amy Arnold, Slip of a Fish

Factfulness is … recognizing when a story talks about a gap, and remembering that this paints a picture of two separate groups, with a gap in between. The reality is often not polarized at all. Usually the majority is right there in the middle, where the gap is supposed to be.
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

Polarities to manage are sets of opposites which can’t function well independently. Because the two sides of a polarity are interdependent, you cannot choose one as a ‘solution’ and neglect the other.
— Barry Johnson, Polarity Management

Nothing exists without duality, simultaneous as a shadow
— Anne Michaels, Infinite Gradation

I am a Saturn who dreams of being a Mercury, and everything I write reflects these two impulses.
— Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium

My fox/hedgehog model is not a dichotomy. It is a spectrum.
— Philip Tetlock & Dan Gardner, Superforecasting

For there exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision, one system, less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel – a single, universal, organising principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance – and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way, for some psychological or physiological cause, related to no moral or aesthetic principle.
— Isaiah Berlin, The Hedgehog and the Fox

Swans by M. C. Escher

Swans by M. C. Escher

It is not either-or, it is both-and, and that is a central part of metamodernity.
— Lene Rachel Andersen, Metamodernity

There wasn’t a single meaning. There were many meanings. It was a riddle expanding out and out and out.
— Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

This is not a matter of arguing so much as of perceiving. It’s a matter of vision. And when it comes to vision, we need to be able to see contrary things and believe them both true: ‘Without Contraries is no progression’ (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell), despite the scorn of rationalists whose single vision rejects anything that is not logically coherent.
— Philip Pullman, Dæmon Voices

The range of human knowledge today is so great that we’re all specialists and the distance between specialisations has become so great that anyone who seeks to wander freely among them almost has to forego closeness with the other people around him.
— Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Losing perspective is an intellectual virtue because it requires mourning, confusion, reorientation, and new thoughts. Without it, knowledge slogs along in its various narrow grooves, but there will be no leaps, because the thinner my perspective, the more likely it is for me to accept the preordained codes of a discipline as inviolable truths. A willingness to lose perspective means an openness to others who are guided by a set of unfamiliar propositions.
— Siri Hustvedt, Living, Thinking, Looking

Change happens at the boundaries of things: the boundary between the known and the unknown, the familiar and the different, between the old way and the new way, the past and the future.
— Dave Gray, Liminal Thinking

The liminal area of one thing, by definition, has to meet the edge of something else even if that’s thin air. Limbo suspends bodies and minds in-between.
— Dan Fox, Limbo

At the edges of the given patterns, there are liminal zones. The boundaries. This is where interaction takes place. These are the places where the directions of potential pathways as yet uncharted live.
— Nora Bateson, Small Arcs of Larger Circles

In short, trickster is a boundary-crosser. Every group has its edge, its sense of in and out, and trickster is always there, at the gates of the city and the gates of life, making sure there is commerce. He also attends the internal boundaries by which groups articulate their social life. We constantly distinguish – right and wrong, sacred and profane, clean and dirty, male and female, young and old, living and dead – and in every case trickster will cross the line and confuse the distinction. Trickster is the creative idiot, therefore, the wise fool, the grey-haired baby, the cross-dresser, the speaker of sacred profanities. Where someone’s sense of honorable behavior has left him unable to act, trickster will appear to suggest an amoral action, something right/wrong that will get life going again. Trickster is the mythic embodiment of ambiguity and ambivalence, doubleness and duplicity, contradiction and paradox.
— Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World

He’s not just one thing or another. Nobody is. Not even you.
— Ali Smith, Autumn

A cross-disciplinary curiosity is vital for originality in any field of creative endeavor. But solving the major unsolved problems in any one discipline requires deep expertise in it, even if the final insight is aided by a wide lens on surrounding fields.
— Maria Popova, Figuring

Questions are invitations to conversations in business boardrooms, community groups and in institutions of governance. Questions are ways to build bridges between these different sectors and between different disciplines that compartmentalize our knowledge. Questions – and the conversations they spark – can unleash collective intelligence and help us value multiple perspectives.
— Daniel Christian Wahl, Designing Regenerative Cultures

Everyone automatically categorizes and generalizes all the time. Unconsciously. It is not a question of being prejudiced or enlightened. Categories are absolutely necessary for us to function. They give structure to our thoughts.
— Hans Rosling, Factfulness

A gift for embracing paradox is not the least of the equipment an activist should have.
— Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

You gotta think about it the same way as if you want to see it. You got to look at it sideways. Out the corner of your eye. So you gotta think about it out the corner of your mind. It’s there and it en’t, both at the same time.
— Philip Pullman, The Secret Commonwealth

I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason
— John Keats, Letter to George & Tom Keats, 22 December 1818

the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘The Crack-Up’

we were born with an opposable mind we can use to hold two conflicting ideas in constructive tension.
— Roger Martin, The Opposable Mind

this straining and stretching to a higher level which is the specific challenge of a divergent problem, a problem in which irreconcilable opposites have to be reconciled.
— E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

It’s the place where reality strikes the ideal, where a joke becomes serious and anything serious is a joke. The magic point where every idea and its opposite are equally true.
— Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

When others interact with us we often have to adjust our view of reality.
— David Didau, What If Everything You Knew About Education Was Wrong?

Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.
— Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

When we push beyond a boundary, we often discover that what lies beyond is not so strange. We are still ourselves. But what we learn is that to bridge differences is better than to place barriers in front of them. Perhaps there is no waste ground, only ground with which we are not familiar.
— M. W. Bewick & Ella Johnston, The Orphaned Spaces

Sketch of the neo-generalist continuum

Sketch of the neo-generalist continuum

Answers or Questions.
The sum or its parts.
Inside or Outside.
Light or Dark.
Sun or Shade.
Empty or Full.

And yet most things that seem like binaries don’t really hold, once you being to think about them in any great detail.

In the sense that every doorway is both an entrance and an exit. Open – close – arrive – depart. And so the threshold, the indeterminate place – hover, pause – is the most interesting space.
— Emily LaBarge, ‘Adaptation’