Linear Thinking… a Lament

Posted on April 10, 2015 by Jeff Bloom

Every time I listen to radio news, read news stories, communicate with people, I am saddened by the intensity of linear (or as Gregory Bateson referred to it, “lineal”) thinking. When I can discuss issues and try to present more complex, non-linear or recursive ways of thinking about problems, I almost always encounter a knee-jerk resistance. I don’t even think most people realize they are doing it. But, it’s as if I’m talking some foreign language that doesn’t even register.

We are living in times during which we are facing huge problems that threaten the future of humanity. We need to think about the issues facing us from multiple perspectives. We can’t just see some problem and think that there is a simple causal factor. The problems are not that simple. They don’t work like mechanical systems. There are complex webs of interactions that contribute to multiple causes and effects. To address these issues in ways that may help create a reasonable future for humanity, we have to be open to all perspectives and we have to do our best to wrestle with the complexities.

I know we are capable of thinking in this way. We have to put aside our own agendas (greed, selfishness, self-absorption, or just nose-to-the-grindstone) and engage in conversations that expose the messiness and complexity of the issues we’re facing. We need to reconnect with one another, with our ecological context, and our biological and social contexts. It’s our only hope…


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