Strange Sandwiches

Binds are tricky to relate to in a timeless, generalizable way. That’s because binds themselves are flawlessly concealed within any complex intersection of choices. Camouflaged by the obvious, apparent, pressing is-ness of the world. If our metaphorical map showed the binds at play, we would be paralyzed by the overwhelm of “it all”.

Inevitably (as you will come to learn) what is revealed is complemented by what is hidden. Word choice is an important one that many can relate because it is so commonly problematic while still being essential to showing up. Most people don’t have the real option to just stop communicating with words. Potential problems when facing word choice, or communication in general, in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” overwhelm. The experience of “I don’t know what to say that won’t make things worse”.

In modern times, with the rise of computers and now artificial (digital) agents, the focus on natural language has exploded. It is easy to conclude that the problem is humanity’s epic, Tower of Babel type natural language proliferation. The troubles vexing the globalization of culture and the infosphere seem then, through those interpretive pressures, to at least in part be disorienting styles and fashions in communication.

OKIC relieves that despair by getting us to a deeper navigation issue: the collision of alternatives and preferences. The resolution is through a complex, categorical formulation, geometrically encoded, that begins by understanding binding. In later chapters you’ll also learn to appreciate and navigate masking and shielding. But first, the binds.

Let’s do the sandwich shoppe analogy. Imagine you choose to patronize the Everyone Eats Sandwich Shoppe. The selection of choices presented is:

“What does a person have to do to get a BLT around here?”
“What does a person have to do to get a BLT around here?”

When oriented toward questioning assumptions, like in the SOP example, the bind becomes at least partially visible in the disambiguation process. There’s an “I see what’s missing in my view of myself or the other” realizable for a given participant. “I never seriously considered eating lettuce with bacon instead of tomato with bacon.”

When understanding alternatives that accommodate various preferences, something else happens when the accommodation is one of omission where there is some advantage to emphasizing what remains. At the Everybody Eats Sandwich Shoppe, instead of offering customers what is plainly a BLT without bacon, a positive spin menu item has been created: “Veggie Special”. Instead of offering BLT hold the lettuce, the menu offers a “No Fillers Please!” choice. What is not present gets obscured, no longer on the map of that sandwich choice. In this case BLT is not even on the menu! And the obscured items have become negatively associated. Bacon is too meaty. Lettuce is just a filler. Tomato lacks crunch.

After reading the above menu, how might you be inclined logically to characterize a classic BLT sandwich? An soggy, meaty, filler sandwich. Yuk! A resulting “I Lost My Appetite for BLTs” paradox holds the menu together, contingent on customers showing up ready to entertain the collective tension the menu creates between “other choices are inglorious and unappetizing” and “these particular choices are sure to satisfy everyone’s preferences”.

Lack of understanding about how accommodation, reinforcement and the consequence to naming and relating to certain preferences in order to hide what is absent is getting humanity in a lot of trouble. Not only is it not desirable for any of us to always get what we want, but it’s harder for us to not do ourselves the disservice of thoughtlessly mischaracterizing mystery, what is hidden and, most importantly, the positive possibilities hiding in plain sight. “Hey, there’s a BLT hiding in there! I bet that’s a delicious combination.”

If you noticed parity between the Everyone Eats Menu and the XYZ Bind (first figure / geometric encoding), you are keen indeed. Seeing the way they connect becomes important as you relate to and understand, in Figure Series A-H that starts Part 1 of OKIC, the naming of the binds and their parts. The process is revisited again in more detail in Chapter 2 and developed in relation to counterfactuals, or “what if” scenarios.

In the above disambiguation activity and sandwich analogy, looking at the choices you can intuitively grasp how key states in the conflict function (twist, turn, affect decisions) in different ways given different assumptions. What is less intuitive is how one derives such lists (as shared in the word choices in the very first example/exercise) or more meaningful menus (more so than minimalistic sandwich choices), where each choice leads, and how it stands to affect our stories down the road – for better or worse.

In an ideal world, we will be able to generalize about other situations or accurately anticipate what others will do when their assumptions are questioned, have confidence that experiencing our outer kaleidoscope will allow for better adaptation and flow in new situations, and experience our inner compass as allowing better coordination with others. OKIC is that ideal made real.

I hope you already have the experience that these possibilities are the case when we are able to objectively, calmly examine and engage with a situation. More often than not though, our inner story-teller wants to have a say. In our subjective retelling, some assumptions or simple preferences get elevated while others are kept hidden or, worse yet, distorted. Similarly, twists and ambiguities are an inherent danger we face in being subject to others’ interpretations of our situations. When our assumptions overlap with those of the interpreter or story reteller, either by chance or through hard work, we find that we “see eye to eye”. When another differs and is intent on their own version, we tend to “talk past each other.”

Eliminating or changing assumptions or alternatives in a significant way requires adjustment and reorientation. In effect, we put ourselves in to the kaleidoscope of shared experience – wherein we may adjust our outer. Or we choose a new destination or representation within ourselves – wherein we reorient our inner. Still, addressing an assumption, especially when the stakes are high, can mean facing a difficult-to-undo shift. It feels like a risk.

Why should I be the one to “take one for the team”?  Why trust “the system” that got me into this mess in the first place? In the face-off, given the risk of setting down one’s own assumption, we face a microcosmic existential crisis.

From our own assumptions, everything is quite self-evident. As such, the metaphorical weather is just fine when others “get” us. Questioning assumptions always creates an affront to our relative contentment. Add to that feeling cornered, such as your job depends on this, or pressured, such as time constraints affect decisions or survival, and such shifts morph from opportunities for reasonable affronts to my relative contentment to extreme stances of reactive intolerance and indignation.

The kaleidoscope and compass, the outer-inner navigation dance by which we might reorient, can take on threatening proportions.

Readiness to adjust can actually feel threatening, in large part because “the system” on which we inexplicably rely seems to bring our sincere participation into question. In this we face the mother of all assumptions. The stories we’re telling ourselves, the stories we’re re-packaging and telling each other, make sense even if we don’t know how or why they fit.