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Living with Incomprehension and Uncertainty

Re-cognizing the varieties of non-comprehension and misunderstanding (Part #1)


Introduction
Omnipresence of non-comprehension and ignorance
Nature of incomprehension
Incomprehension versus Misunderstanding
Incomprehension in personal experience
Incomprehension in relation to governance
Incomprehension and ignorance in relation to systems of belief
Incomprehensible constraints on comprehensive capacity
Experiencing incomprehension personally
Incomprehension in the face of information overload
Incomprehensible inadequacy of collective response
Being misunderstood and incomprehension of the other
Re-cognition, epistemology and metaphysics
Towards the systematic reframing of incomprehension through metaphor
Towards the dynamic art of partial comprehension
Conclusion
References

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Produced in a period when sustained incomprehension may well enable World War III,
whilst, incomprehensibly, over 13 million face starvation in the Sahel region


Introduction

This follows from explorations of the experience of nothingness and pointlessness in daily life -- especially as a consequence of the current pattern of global strategies (Configuring the Varieties of Experiential Nothingness, 2012; Way Round Cognitive Ground Zero and Pointlessness? 2012). The experience may well be intimately related to a sense of incomprehension at the paradoxes and absurdities of life, irrespective of how well-informed an individual may be. Unconventional adaptations may be evoked to survive such experiences and thrive despite (Living as an Imaginal Bridge between Worlds: global implications of "betwixt and between" and liminality, 2011).

Such experience gives rise to a profound sense of uncertainty on which many have remarked. This is recognized at the collective level with respect to decision-making and governance. This condition of the times has been variously articulated by a number of authors (Michael Foley, The Age of Absurdity: why modern life makes it hard to be happy, 2011; Jonathan Fields, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance, 2011; Dennis Merritt Jones, The Art of Uncertainty: how to live in the mystery of life and love it, 2011), most notably by Charles Handy (The Age of Unreason, 1989; Beyond Certainty, 1995; The Age of Paradox, 1995).

Mention of the profound implications of the inexplicable, the incomprehensible and potential surprises is readily avoided in silence -- a form of omertà, of which the style of debate of the international community offers one model (Global Strategic Implications of the Unsaid: from myth-making towards a wisdom society, 2003; Institutionalized Shunning of Overpopulation Challenge: incommunicability of fundamentally inconvenient truth, 2008; Lipoproblems: Developing a Strategy Omitting a Key Problem, 2009). The curious situation engendered is exemplified by the "irony-free zone" in which official press briefings take place, as described by Tim Shipman (The Gulf of Incomprehension, The Spectator, 29 March 2003).

It is appropriate to ask whether the pretence that incomprehension can be ignored fails to honour the nature of the experience with which many are obliged to live on a daily basis -- as a consequence of that pretence.

As with the "inexplicable", the question here is whether it is possible to engage fruitfully with the experience of incomprehension, rather than denying it or avoiding it (Engaging with the Inexplicable, the Incomprehensible and the Unexpected, 2010). Can it be usefully "faced" and "tasted" -- as an inspiration to new forms of action?

Curiously, in a period of multiple quests for integrative insights -- as originally profiled by the Integrative Knowledge Project -- incomprehension may be recognized as the "inverse" of the Holy Grail of any all-encompassing "Theory of Everything", understood as the ultimate quest of science for "comprehensive" comprehension.

In a critical period, characterized by forms of incomprehension regarding both the strategic intentions of Iran in relation to development of nuclear weapons, and their possible imminent use by Israel, the situation is exacerbated by the policy of deliberate ambiguity practiced by both. The world is now obliged to live with the incomprehension and uncertainty that nuclear war may be triggered with the complicity of the USA, despite a degree of awareness of the possible consequences. It could be held to be incomprehensible that this situation has been brought about by three essentially "theocratic" nations, representing the three Abrahamic religions -- as yet unable to resolve their differences creatively, after centuries of violent interaction, with each incomprehensible to the other and committed to its negation.


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