4. Work with the grain

Previous or Start Again ?

Let’s pause for a contradiction.

Irritatingly for the Precise, not everything is complex even if everything is challenging, and there are situations where it is more Imprecise to want to work with the grain. Going with the grain makes it easier to work the raw material and I often get a smoother finish for less effort.

Thus, in the social sphere, swimming with the tide is a better way to exploit the natural strength of the networks. This does seem to contradict preceding conclusions, for is not swimming against the tide a less Comfortable activity and therefore a more Imprecise way to behave? Is it not always more creative to buck the trend?

I need to forget these old oppositional ways of thinking, for Imprecise does not mean Uncomfortable. It is a critique of Comfort perhaps but it need not be painful, as paradoxically a position of Comfort can be.

It is true that initially this exhortation may seem counter-intuitive to the Imprecise novice because it resembles a position of Comfort, that old Hippy position of “Go with the flow, man”, yet the ability to follow the general trend requires real generosity of spirit.

A lack of personal capacity specifically in this area leads many an administration to fail the citizen whom it was designed to serve, partly because governments and their bureaucracies are created to impose their will on a chaotic situation and make their particular domain appear a tad more Precise. Indeed they often speak with a certain satisfaction about having been able to impose order in a confused situation, which is a classic position of swimming against the tide.

Conversely, going with the flow actually holds the greater power, for it harnesses more progressive forces and adds value to pre-planned action.

So easy does it, I need not be too hard on myself.

A story.


My friend Clarie is much younger than me, a dark-haired ball of Irish energy with a piercing gaze totally engaged in all aspects of life. She has a brilliantly creative intelligence capable of great decadence, of indefinable sexuality and addicted to self-harm, warm and inclusive, superbly generous and with the loudest laugh in Christendom. One of life’s great survivors, she was an adopted child; and it was only recently that she said the most extraordinary thing to me:

– Do you also have the Refusal of the No?

I had never considered it before, she made it sound like an infection.

I could immediately identify an obsession with the Yes within myself, which I supposed could be seen as a way of refusing the No. Indeed, for the past decade I had run my business relations to the Yes mantra; it never occurring to me that that decision was about me. I just thought it was a rather clever and necessary way to interpret my mandate in public service. Ha.

So I sat, and considered, and it all fell into place remarkably quickly, like the end of a successful game of Tetris.

Thank you Clarie.

Read on: 5. Learning

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