A HipBone approach to analysis VII: world wide spiders & the web

[ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Zenpundit ]


I thought I’d back-track a little, and drag in two blog posts that I made elsewhere back in March of 2008, which may help to explain my basic outlook on the sorts of issues that analysts face.


I. The version of the idea as poetry:

I am Charles


My concern is the human mind in service
to an open heart, and my problem
is that the heart picks issues rich in ambiguity
and multiplicity of voices, tensions
and torsions tugging not one way but
in many directions, even dimensions, as does
a spider’s web weighed down with dew –
to clarify which a mind’s abacus is required
equal in subtlety to subtlety itself, while
in all our thinking and talking, one
effect follows one cause from question
to conclusion down one sentence or white
paper — whereas in counterpoint,
Bach’s fugal voices contain their dissonance.


II. The same idea presented in prose — as I say, a few years back — with graphical illustration:

Spiders and dewdrops

Spiders and dewdrops do a pretty convincing job of portraying a certain level of complexity in this node-and-edge diagram of the global situation.


When, say, Castro hands over power to his brother, or Musharraf has to give up control of the Pakistani army, it’s like snipping a couple of threads in that spiders web — and the droplets fall this way and that, carom into one another, the fine threads they’re on swing down and around until a new equilibrium is reached…
But try thinking that through in terms of Cuba and Pakistan before breakfast one morning if you’re Secretary of State, with a linear Cold War mind, Russia going through its own changes, and al-Qaida and associates training and recruiting in the background…

Well, those two instances have been and gone, and the new configurations are now the tired old same old configurations we believe we’ve figured out — until another dewdrop slips, and a thread breaks, and all things are once again new…


Funnily enough, I think this spider’s web of mine ties in with the Hokusai quote I posted in response to Zen‘s quote from Steven Pressfield yesterday, and with a piece I read today about intelligence analysts — Martin Petersen, What I Learned in 40 Years of Doing Intelligence.

It’s the web of tensions that constitutes the “complexity” that must somehow be grasped by the analyst, the writer, the historian…

And Hokusai, watching across the years how grasses bend in the winds, reach for sunlight, bow under the weight of dew — and spring back when released — may finally have a mind that’s attuned to that kind of complexity — to a degree that linear thinking will never reach…