oCoC: complex & simple, difficult & easy

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Hey, Friend,

I keep using the word complex a lot. And it is not simple. It does not have to be difficult either. It can be easy. And simple can be difficult. Agreed? Or confused?

This is how I am using these words: I say complex when I see many different parts or variables that interact. Again and again. The system is dynamic. It changes. It is complex. When you plot how the system – or only one of its variables – changes over time, you get a nonlinear graph and not a straight line. It is complex. If there is only one variable – which is very rare – then its change is simple. The change is steady. Cause and effect are proportionate. The graph is linear. Simple. David Snowden calls these simple problems.

Most things, most processes are complex. It’s the interacting parts and variables. A complex process or even a task does not have to be difficult. Difficult is subjective. It is a category of our mind. Complex is a feature of the thing itself. Simple is a feature of the thing itself. So, I can experience the simple as difficult. (And personally, then I am procrastinating or it is more likely that I do.) And of course, I can find the complex easy. If I put my mind to it and tackle it now.

oCoC: Sign here

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On the complexity of change

Hey, Friend,

Yes, I have never signed these blog posts. I did not think it necessary. I write a lot more than a signature about myself in two other places: the short version and the long version. No signature on these pages either. I guess, one just does not do that. People put their sign in other places. I sign emails. And so do my colleagues. The other day, one colleague told me that he and a few others did an informal study of these automatically added bits of text, and they all agreed they liked mine. I really appreciated the comment. I had had comments on my emails on occasion, but never on the signature. This is what it looks like during the – work – day.

Mathias Schulze, PhD

https://texterium.org/ and @mat_schulze and https://pantarhei.press/
he works at SDSU-LARC and the Dept. of European Studies
and now lives on the land of the Kumeyaay
[SDSU logo]

The full name, three short lines of text, and a small picture of four letters. Others have shorter signatures or no added auto-text at all. And yet others, have auto-text that is longer than the text body. So, what does it say? I sign – from Latin signare “to set a mark upon, mark out, designate; mark with a stamp; distinguish, adorn.” There often is a lot in a word, and I believe it is useful to play with words.

A tiny piece of canned text. Where is the complexity? What does this have to do with change? The change makes it complex.

In the beginning, I had no signature. Well, before that I had no email. In the early 1990s, I started with Pine and then Elm. I subscribed to some distribution lists to get at least an email or two a day. The list I remember fondly got me one or two essayistic and narrative texts from Mark Warschauer each week. In the late 90s – I still had no signature – the IT staff told me that I should delete some read and saved emails in my folder structure, because I was getting very close to my quota of 10 Megabytes on the mailserver. [Exponential growth in storage space, the staff could not predict!] And then the signatures came, giving complete mail addresses and telephone and fax numbers. Was I hoping to get a letter or phone call instead? And then, titles. Others added accolades. The fax number, I deleted soon from the “bottom lines”. Address and phone number were longer than the URL of a home page and my sig was shorter again. I like it that way.

Colleagues began to add quotes, statements, and stories. I added links. I like traffic on the blogs, on a website, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, still hoping there will be days on which I which I am using more time writing and reading for these media than for email. And colleagues added gender identification, job titles, and land acknowledgements.

I have lived in many different places; does it still matter what I am a native of? As a boy, I watched East German Westerns, in which the Sioux, the Delaware, the Mohicans, the Apache, and the Seminoles were the main characters. Courageous, strong, smart, and true. I wanted to be like them. And in 2001, I got much closer. For sixteen years, I lived on the Haldimand Tract, six miles on each side of the Grand River, the land of the Haudenosaunee. I like to acknowledge that I am now beginning to learn about the Kumeyaay.

With many first names, I am unsure about the person. Should I use he or she when I email about Pat? Or Sasha? It’s a new custom to list pronouns after the name. They are short and clear. As a linguist, I did not want to list them; these little words live from their context, and I did not want to deprive them unnecessarily. So, I wrote a little sentence in the signature. The subject pronoun got an antecedent (a word to which it refers back) – the signer of the email by name – and it hooks up with the verb work, which makes it happy, grammatically speaking. And that’s what I do during the day – work. Like many, many others. I try to do my work as best I understand, as they do theirs. And then I write and read emails. With a short signature. On the weekend, I carve out some time to write other texts. No signature. Yet.

I am getting back to writing these short – or longer – texts on the complexity of change, exploring different examples and grappling with necessary concepts. Using my theoretical lens to better understand practical things, stuff I stumbled over, processes that proceed or peter out, … You can look at them in the order in which I wrote them, and once in a while, I make an attempt to sort them in a linear order.

oCoC: Peace and change

Jürgen von der Lippe: Guten Morgen, liebe Sorgen

On the complexity of change

Hey, Friend,

I woke up this morning and the first four lines of a song played in my mind.

Guten Morgen, liebe Sorgen
Seid ihr auch schon alle da?
Habt ihr auch so gut geschlafen?
Na dann ist ja alles klar.

Good morning, my dear worries. Are you all here already? Did you sleep as well as I did? Alright then, everything is clear.

What are we doing with the complexity of change, if it is not just any problem, but we are right in the middle of it? Maybe we see ourselves as the problem? We are one of the actors in this nonlinear process of complex change? And using technical terms does not make it better. We suffer. We feel the process is out of control. Maybe we are not the problem? Maybe somebody else is behind it? Maybe everybody else is behind it? We are overwhelmed. Nothing we do makes it better. Perhaps we get angry, perhaps we get anxious. It’s all too much. Nothing makes sense anymore. We keep trying to react. And react frantically. Our energy is draining. Exhausted. Tired. Low, low energy. We force ourselves to go back to the problem, to tackle it one more time. Or not. We ignore. We avoid. We give up. No end and no solution in sight. 

What a bleak picture. I have been in pictures like that. Pictures like that are imprinted on my mind. And the problem-solving I began to describe – the overcoming of a hurdle between the current state and the goal state – just does not seem to work. In a picture like that, it feels like problem-solving does not even apply. We feel we were treated poorly and unfairly at work, and it hurts. A loved one is in silent or loud pain. We have seen the pain too late and feel we have a part in it. We drive on a busy road. Somebody cuts in right in front of us. We brake. And feel like nobody his ever seen or heard us. No end and no solution in sight?

What am I going to do? With all these problems I have described so vaguely? The answer surprised me. Nothing. Now. Do nothing now. I have looked at the problem. I have tackled the problem. The problem didn’t budge, did not change for the better, didn’t just disappear. I cannot avoid it. What am I going to is the wrong question at this moment. What am I going to be is the better question. The problem is complex and my being overwhelmed does not help me control the process. Looking back, my being overwhelmed made it worse. 

It’s a matter of perception. You have looked outward. At the problem. At the others who are part of it. At yourself from the outside. Now is the time to look inward. Give your mind the peace it needs. Calm. Rest. Rhythm. Perceive the calm energy we all have. Breathe. Feel your breath. Feel your heart. Feel your body. Relax. Focus on your breath.

And when you return from your meditation, the problems – or do you have just one? – were waiting for you. Problems tend to be persistent and patient. And so can you be. With your peaceful mind, you can change the problem. You can change the world. Calmly. One problem at the time.

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