The Real World is Squiggly

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006 10:20 am by Neal

There’s been plenty to write about lately which I shall share with you soon; however, the real world has it’s way of imposing itself onto well laid plans.

Which brings me to one observation worthy of immediate attention: the fact that the real world is squiggly, gooey, complicated and defiant of a “plan.” Alan Watts is the author of numerous books and lectures on Eastern philosophy, mainly Zen Buddhism, and I highly recommend his material. He understood that reality is “squiggly” — unpredictable, complicated, and most of all, elusive of any abstract plans to capture or harness it. We’d all do well to understand this given the confusion of our age.

Karl Marx, Mao Zedong and John Kerry thought that “society” could be “planned.” Software project managers think that complicated software systems can be “planned” so they sit around with their Gantt charts and timelines and wonder why the engineers ignore them. Plans are great, but they are often less like a blueprint and more like a recipe — a suggestion as to how to proceed. Only now, some 30 years after its design is the Space Shuttle debugged enough to be reliable.

Dealing with any complex system requires a response, an adjustment, as well as a plan. Plans “as ideal solutions” are for ideologues like college professors (which explains quite a bit) who never have to accommodate the messy, “real world.” Reality imposes itself onto “plans” in unpredictable ways, and the key to success is how one responds to reality. Idealistic professors live in the abstract world of plans; entrepreneurs live in the protean world of reality and adjust to it in order to accomplish. One expects the world to adapt to his ideas; the other adapts to the kaleidoscope of reality.

I am so tired of critics of Iraq (like Kerry) who claim that “Bush had no plan for Iraq.” Of course, he did! But, how do you “plan” for all that has occurred since the US military overthrew Hussein? No honest person would admit that such a plan was even possible. All in all, I congratulate our military for their reaction to unforeseen, but not totally unexpected, circumstances. Such is the unpredictable nature of war.

Planning is overrated. Improvising is underrated. In this chemical world, everything is a reaction.

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