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Customize the Contradictions

“Crude classifications and false generalizations are the curse of the organized life.” (H. G. Wells)
We are awash in contradictions. Predators by nature genetically armed with pernicious incisors and a three pound processor all courtesy of a protein rich diet for a few million years, our fondness for beast and fowl as conscientious objectors may compel us to overcome our urges and eat only the greenery instead. Our position atop the food chain may be willfully superseded by our view from the summit on the Great Chain of Being. After all, Man gave names to all the animals. It is easy to demonize those who do not share our bias or belief. While our redemption may come from finding our commonalities by degree it is by prizing our differences that we expand beyond measure.
We are the paradox we see in our world. Constantly turning the lens out and back inside to view our own circumspect reflection we meet our long lost twin at the edge of our Self. Deep questions about what it means to be in full possession of our life are easily replaced by catchy mantras and smooth diversions. Just follow the master or repeat the magic words and all will be well. But our meaning is made sound from the whispering voice within. Character actors we say our lines and perform our way down stage to where we can be seen as playing an acceptable part. It is through our hypocrisy that we integrate our complexity. We make sense of our Self by synchronizing what we experience with what we know. We grow by adjusting our beliefs to reconcile the two. Great pretenders all, save a few miracle workers, we are a multitude of one and fabulously so.
In Fifteenth Century Europe the best and brightest of the aristocracy were chosen to be educated as scholar or prefect. To expand the range and competency of the youth a rigorous Liberal Arts program of study was followed. The Ars Liberalis was comprised of the Trivium, the three roads, and upon completion, the Quadrivium, the next four. Students needed to demonstrate proficiency in grammar, rhetoric and logic before proceeding to arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. An elegant mind and a facile fluency in the crafts of consequence were required for a Renaissance leader who was expected to manage and coordinate elaborate municipalities, religious hierarchies and a wide range of commercial transactions.
We continue to emphasize personal mastery and integration of disciplines in the curricula of our most prestigious universities because they provide us with a way to bridge the personal with the communal. Exposure to an assortment of people and ideas leads to new types of solutions and more importantly capabilities. We become the company we keep and vice versa – a customized mélange. The unique attributes of the Fantastic Four are recombined into hybrids more potent than any singular power: Collaborate, Create, Compete and Control. As we develop our skills we become aware of our deficiencies as well as a wider range of options that come to us with the face of others. While the idealistic architect may draw the sublime plan it takes the practical contractor to build it to code. While ambidexterity is a desirable attribute it is rarely fully realized in an individual. Instead, it is our understanding that we need the other, the disagreeable and odious, that we are unbound.
It may simply be that gaining exposure to new types of people and ideas create the quality of mind and skill we have come to associate with success. This is because we create and ascend in complimentary groups – marriages, families and teams. Biologists tell us that Man and dog are best friends because we evolved symbiotically. We grew up together. Our personal growth is dependent upon our collective progress. We are renewed by accommodating that which is new to us and again by returning the favor.

  • Expand the range of approaches employed and integrate them into hybrids
Jeff DeGraff
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