Twelvetide 20:13 The Baker’s dozen

January 6, 2021

50746781452 18ce903c52 oThis post is by way of a postscript to the main theme of the series.  To be honest, I am never sure if the twelve days of Christmas start on the Day itself or Boxing day, but today is Epiphany when the Magi presented their gifts to the Christ Child and the traditional end of the Christmas period so I make no apology for adding a thirteenth post to the sequence.  In Wales, the day is known as Ystwyll and its celebration involves significant consumption of cake in the hope of discovering a ring and the hunting of the wren, don’t ask me why.  Ritual is so fascinating in humans and how some of these traditions evolve is curious, to say the least.

I promised in this final post to talk about pet peeves or things that irritate me and naturally, given my general celebration of curmudgeonly practice (search on our website and you will find multiple posts) there are many targets.  I want to make a general point here against all the homogenisers who despise conflict.  I’m sorry to tell you not all ideas have equal value and there is nothing wrong with vigorous condemnation of folly.  it is also the case that if you are trying to do something new then you need to make distinctions clearer than when you need to when your ideas are established.  The tendency with anything novel is for people to make it fit something they are already familiar with.  The net result is that people like me often have to say that we reserve the right to be more reasonably under questioning but start off by drawing some vigorous boundaries.

There is another general point to be made here about the role and nature of language  In general, to change the way that people think you often need to introduce new words (I did that with aporetic and exaptive) or make distinctions between words that are seen as synonyms: complex and complicated, efficiency and effectiveness to take a couple of examples.  To create a tension that makes people think differently is not the same thing as the disorientation that often is a part of being inducted into the mystical language of a cult but the two sometimes be confused.

To be clear, any list such as this always arises out of a current context, so it may reveal some of my current interactions but it’s a list and one that can be maintained and updated.  So here goes

  1. Using the word academic as a power play.  This is very common with people who either don’t understand something and are too lazy to follow links or do some basic checking, they lack curiosity and the label is an excuse for laziness. More evil, they see an advantage to play a power game; they claim the role of mediator and simplifier which generally means to dumb things down to the simplistic.  If you read something and you do not have to look some words up or at least think more deeply about their meaning, then no learning is taking place.
  2. The opposite of this is creating an esoteric language unnecessarily to exclude people, not in your sect.  Ironically this is often done with platitudes that appear familiar and attractive, but which are combined in a mystical form.   Some academic disciplines lead naturally to this, which is to their detriment.  I fell in love with philosophy because I could read Plat at the age of 14, that would not be the case with professional philosophy today.  A lot of cults (and they exist in OD practice as well as religion) do this a lot. Inducting people by creating a sense of complete loss and confusion before training people in the language of the inner circle. As suggested language here is often novel combinations of familiar words.
  3. The straw man fallacy, restating someone’s argument not to check your understanding (I think what you are saying is, is that correct?) but to attack something your protagonist is not saying in the first place.  This is oh so common in social media debates where people skim and associate rather than read or think.  One of the many advantages of being trained in philosophy is that you are precise in your use of language so when someone does not pay proper attention to what you actually said it is really irritating and a sign of maliciousness or stupidity or possibly both.
  4. Claiming the superiority of ignorance – I went to the University of Life, I can only speak to my experience and other such phrases.  ln the Welsh tradition you may not have been privileged to have been gifted education but that does not remove the obligation to educate yourself.  You should not be deprivileged in a conversation by accident of birth or circumstances, but neither are those two conditions an excuse for not reading, questioning, talking, and thinking.
  5. Adopting a theory of X which has a linear causal set of assumptions as to the why of X.  As a result people seek evidence to support said pet theory rather than really listening.  It is why I am deeply suspicious about theories of human motivation which are noncontextual in nature.   The consultant/therapist in effect has already formed a judgment as to the nature of the problem and will induce the belief in the person they are working with.
  6. Failing to check the context of practice before seeking to scale that practice which includes a whole body of claims about various things having been well researched without first checking the nature of the research in question.  This frequently results in something which had value in a specific context being scaled as a context-free solution.
  7. Taking an it’s not my fault but approach to change.  This includes new-Darwinists who foolishly believe in the survival of the fittest, but only so long as they occupy that status.  It also includes people who depersonalise inhuman activity with phrases like don’t blame me, it’s the process or similar.  You are responsible for the results of what you do, even if they were unintended (when mitigation is key) or if they were sins of commission or critical omission both of which are equally sinful in Catholic dogma.

So that is a working list, for those, I have jumped on for committing any of these, while you have my sympathy I am not sorry and I plan to continue, there is gold at the base of that rainbow …

So Christmas blogs over I will take a day off and then start again.


I talked yesterday about a walk in January of 2020 with Paul, Brenda, and Iwan.  That walk triggered a change to the pattern of my life last year as Covid started to hit.  Most weekends Paul, Brenda and I would meet up to walk in South Wales, and as Wales locked down, in the Olchon Valley which is the only part of the Black Mountains to sit in England.  It was an interesting example of an enabling constraint in that we had to find multiple novel routes around that valley, and yes from time to time we trespassed into Wales.  It is one of the best walking areas I know so it was no great hardship and I think we have found nine different routes around it.   My final walk with Paul and Brenda this December had the benefit of adding Ellie, my daughter to the party and the banner picture shows her and Paul navigating the mud near Capel as we dipped into Wales.  I don’t think they realise the significance of wearing red shirts into aliens territory.   The opening picture shows a rainbow – I thought a symbol of hope rather than a wall this time – pictured as we ascended the ridge to the west of Llanthony Abbey.  In the course of the year, we have walked all over South Wales with various companions as well as one wonderful break in the Lakes.  Good friends and mountain air are critical to my sanity and my thanks to Paul, Brenda their two sons along with Scottish Euan and Welsh Euan as well as my daughter and other friends who have kept me sane this past year.   I am only really at home in the mountains.



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