Home > Uncategorized > On shades of grey, be they fifty or infinite.

On shades of grey, be they fifty or infinite.

There was a time when I believed in absolutes, the world was black and white, it was good vs evil, order vs chaos, school started here and ended there. Well, things have changed. The world is not so sharply defined today. This is not because the world has changed, but rather I have. I have learnt more about the world and I have explored more of it (admittedly still only a tiny portion of the whole, but come on, it’s early days yet).

The trouble with this is the difficulty it throws in making decisions. It’s easy to make a choice between one thing and another when it’s good against bad, but what about when the options are a mix? I’ve always had trouble making choices. I remember being paralysed by indecision when my parents gave me a 50p piece and I was allowed to buy a chocolate bar (Remember the days when 50p would but more than one chocolate bar?). Later I worked out the best method, Freddos, and lots of them (At least until they become 15p each, god dammed inflation). Anyway, decisions that were completely arbitrary such as choosing a chocolate to eat (I would be happy with just about any chocolate I was given, I was a child) but I couldn’t just pick one, it had to be the BEST ONE.

Freddo: The best damn solid chocolate bar in existence. Don’t know if America has these so thought it’d be a good excue to take some useful advice. Source

This determination to not make a decision unless it was the best one often left me with little or no time to make decisions. The trouble with life is there are a hell of a lot of paths to walk and a hell of a lot of decisions to make so if you worry about every little choice and which one is the best to make then you’ll go nowhere fast. Of course it’s all very well and good to state my philosophy, it’s quite another to put it into practice.

The trouble I found is that when it is black and white, the option is obvious, if you like black, pick black, if you like white, pick white and if you like arguments, troll away on the benefits of white over black, even without any evidence for such contentions. When it’s a grey-scale it’s a big mess and it isn’t clear which side to pick. It’s even less clear if there are sides. Having a grey-scale multiplies the choices to make but the grey-scale also makes it possible to pick more than one option there’s no us and them, so it’s not damming to pick both. No this little paragraph is not me subtly having a go at the pricks who think one race is superior to others, not at all. Excuse my preachiness, the rest of the post is 50% less preachy, I can’t remove more preachiness, otherwise you might not know it was me writing.

I’m not sure but it seems there’s a lot of resistance to the idea that the world isn’t black and white. Law for instance you’re either guilty or you’re not, there’s little gradation (Any experts feel free to explain to the ignorant exactly why I’m wrong, I’d genuinely be interested in examples of where this does not apply). I think this ideology fits nicely into the simplification of the world that comes with humans trying to understand it, as a computer modeller of biological systems, I can sympathise but we mustn’t then try to peddle our wares as if they are the real world, they are only reflections of it and ones in a rippled and dirty pond at that.

We draw arbitrary lines across the grey-scale and this makes the distinction between one and another. You are a child until you are eighteen, then you are an adult, despite being moral or ‘adult’ about things not being connected at any point (You know, besides brain growth during childhood) but even the point at which we become fully grown is not on the morning of our eighteenth birthday, but well before that we stop being a child. Mental growth however is even more arbitrary, I plan on continuing to learn for the rest of my life; I don’t want to stop learning, even if I went on to teach.

Mortarboard: Three Guesses what I’m going to talk about next. Source

These temporal gradations (GREY-dations, geddit? I’m all about the grey today) are the reason I’ve decided to write on this today. My graduation is this week, late for a graduation in my mind, I finished my course back in June. It seems I’m sort of in limbo at the moment, not fully graduated, nor a student. This originally disturbed me, it bothered me that there wasn’t a clear demarcation for when I was one and then the other. What I have to remember though, is that I’m never fully one thing, I’m reminded of Stephen Fry speaking in a debate on whether the Catholic church is a force for good:

Although they like to accuse people like me, who believe in Empiricism, and the Enlightenment of somehow, what they call ‘moral relativism’ as if it’s some appalling sin when what it actually means is Thought. They, for example, thought that slavery was perfectly fine […] and then with a wave of a hand and a stamp of a seal, it was no longer true, something which had been eternally, or at least true for 2000 years, suddenly wasn’t, because the truth is complicated, it’s hard.

We don’t have absolutes in our world of ethics, choices and societies. We define the limits of our own worlds but this does not mean we have to squash all human experience into a narrow spectrum. We are not photons, experience doesn’t vary like light on the spectrum. We are in a landscape of choice and making the decisions we do day in day out changes that landscape. It’s important, in my mind at least, to understand that; if we imagined the world as our simple version then we may make bad decisions for the future.

Norway’s Fjords: If you don’t get the joke, that’s ok, read on and then Google will solve your problems. Source

I have decided, in Slartibartfast’s word’s to “Hang the sense of it and keep myself busy.” I’ve decided this fuzziness is okay, how boring would the world be if we had just two options to choose from? It’s clear as black and white.

This rambling and preachy post brought to you (NOW WITH PICTURES) by UrsusCetacea, who knows all the answers, except to his own questions.

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