C-18. Lost: the Vermont farmer

A car full of tourists, so the story goes, stops to ask a Vermont farmer the way back to Boston. “I wouldn’t start from here,” he replies laconically. The way back, if it retraces the same path, is predictable, of an ordering of things. The way ahead, however it may go and end, whether in Boston or not, offers more and needs more than predictability. It needs guidance. In this it recapitulates the BE’s condition of incomplete instruction (III). That the future is unpredictable rather misses the point if we do not acknowledge that partial order is thereby implied. Prediction does not tell the whole story about the future. We must respect possibility — and not confound it with probability.

It is commonplace that the body has no option but to start from where it is. (Thus the story’s humor.) But taking a new path, beginning a new life even, is also widely acknowledged as a possibility: The step is not so encumbered as the body. There is enough order to make prediction useful, and for change (difference plus similarity: C-4) to be essayed by making and taking steps. But not so much order (e.g., determinism, fate) as to occlude possibility. That is, if possibility is not thwarted by lack of capability or derailed into mere choice among already available alternatives.

Being lost comprises both a (particular) situational problem and the (general) behavioral problem (I: Psit and Pbeh). The latter may not be apparent. The situational problem is apparent and typically we would seek information, like the tourists in the story do. We grow up in an information-rich setting, with solutions galore, instructed at nearly every turn. And today in consumer-heavy societies, the meta-strategy of deciding our future rather than composing it, the tendency to seek any available information is how we usually respond to being lost.

We assume we are lost somewhere! Our functioning follows from a given structure and, here, our place in it. In this, our understanding of behavior is the same as the sense that what our body does follows from what our body is. (Ergo, we can infer, for purposes of identification [see hypostatization] that “Is as does” because “Does as is.”)

But structure can also follow from function (XI), as in products from processes (V). A new path from Vermont is possible. It may not be the same kind of journey: a unique structure perhaps (e.g., a path of discovery; or, better yet, a path of creation and invention). The behavioral problem asserts itself with a little encouragement. Our multi-step lives have reached another punctuation point, a stop (VIII), a condition of functional ignorance as well as of the learning-type ignorance. We are free to begin anew – if we can. Opportunity is empty without capability.

The structure x function dynamic (XI) points out the interdependence relationship. It counsels against any unidirectional (e.g., S => F) neglect of the other half of the relationship. Such neglect stunts development and invention, as we discussed in C-17 for “short term memory,” and shall see in subsequent comments, which deal with evolution, language, curiosity and markets among other things. The reason is to be seen in the behavioral problem and its origins in the Nature of Things. There the function – i.e., behavioral necessity’s requisites and imperatives — which precedes particular structures in step and body is general, itself in consequence of the general persisting (structural) conditions of partial order, consequentiality and discontinuity. Behavior’s functioning is always general as well as particular, whether understood and acknowledged and heeded or not.

It pays to stop and think (VIII), to be creative and inventive, at least once in a while. But how well do we look ahead? Not well at all if we confuse and confound relation with relationship (X), not freeing relation for composition’s imagination (II) to furnish implication and thus counter incomplete instruction (III). How well have we developed our pointed questioning capability (X) so as to imagine, to realize possibility via acts of relating?

(c) 2011 R. F. Carter