Posts Tagged ‘duplicity


Duplicity Part Five: Simple vs. Simplistic

I don’t know whether to call it “splitting hairs”, but I tend to enjoy – well – splitting hairs. Now just to be sure, let us first try to define the idiomatic expression splitting hairs:

  • to quibble; to try to make petty distinctions. They don’t have any serious differences. They are just splitting hairs. Don’t waste time splitting hairs. Accept it the way it is.

  • to argue about whether details that are not important are exactly correct ‘She earns three times what I earn.’ ‘Actually, it’s more like two and a half.’ ‘Oh stop splitting hairs!’

Ah, petty distinctions. Details that are not important. Hmmm…if the details and distinctions that we try to argue about are petty and not important, then we are indeed splitting hairs. But if we are able to whittle things down to their very subtle but significant distinctions beneath the salient but misleading similarities, then we are not splitting hairs.

Now, are we splitting hairs here? How about we take an example from a previous post, the first (and my favorite) Duplicity article:

Some say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, while for others it’s out of sight, out of mind. Which do you believe? For me, I go with François de La Rochefoucauld: Absence diminishes minor passions and inflames great ones, as the wind douses a candle and fans a fire.

So, are we splitting hairs? You be the judge. If you think we are, please move on to other articles now before I annoy you further.

(Now, since those who think that we are splitting hairs have already left this blog, we can now talk about certain potentially offensive things without them knowing.) Earlier I was tempted to put “simplistic” instead of “other” before the word “articles”, so it would have been written as “please move on to simplistic articles before I annoy you further”. Which is, of course, potentially offensive. But since those who would be offended by such remark had already left this blog a few sentences ago (they think we are splitting hairs, remember?), then I guess we have not offended anyone. Not yet, anyway.

Now when I said (or would have  said), “simplistic articles”, I did not mean simple articles. Because there are countless very simple yet very beautiful pieces out there, and they are not a bit simplistic. Just look at the words of Rochefoucauld above – a single sentence made of less than twenty words but it answers the question about distance and passion more clearly than volumes of books ever could. Definitely not simplistic. Okay, now before we go any further, let’s try to differentiate simple from simplistic:

Simple is an uncomplicated word which means ‘straightforward, easy,’ as in a simple solution. Compare a simplistic solution, which is too easy, i.e. it oversimplifies and fails to deal with the complexities of the situation.”

Ah, that’s a simple yet important differentiation. But then I found something even simpler and it has all the distinction I need:

Simplistic is failing to capture the essential complexity…”

The key word here is essential. And so we now have come full circle. We started by talking about splitting hairs – making petty distinctions. Then we arrived at simplistic – too simple to see the essential complexity. Indeed, we are definitely not splitting hairs here.

* * * * *

Oh, I forgot to write something about morality as requested by my nephew. Please forgive me, but that topic is so complex (there is a very long article in Wikipedia complete with countless cross references) and I still haven’t read much beyond the basics, much less experienced it (kidding). I do not want to make simplistic conclusions, you know – only simple yet profound observations. But perhaps I will try to write about it someday…when I have the answers whittled down to their simple yet essential cores…


Duplicity Part Four: Shades of Gray

I like the color gray. Partly black, partly white. In between. No, not in between white and black, but somewhere in the middle of an ocean of seamless shades of gray.

Ah, shades of gray. I have said before that some people never seem to agree with one another because of how they view life, among other things: for some, it is like a painter’s pallet with seamless shades of gray; for others it’s like a chessboard, black and white – and perhaps for a certain few, not only black and white but identically-sized rows and columns of black and white squares, alternating across and lengthwise and lined up side-by-side diagonally with only their pointed tips touching, forming a bigger square made of exactly 64 smaller squares. Wow, such order and symmetry.

A blot on a painter’s pallet, on the other hand, has no definite size, shape or color, and if you place two different shades of gray side by side, they tend to blend at the edges, melting away their boundaries and bleeding into one another so you don’t really know where one shade ends and another begins. And then you add some more shades of gray with varying levels of darkness and brightness, and I guess that’s more like it. Life, I mean. It’s definitely more like a pallet than a chessboard.

I remember another analogy on how differently people view and act toward life: for some, they are on a speedboat, going where their wills take them and going there on a straight line – or at least being able to turn exactly where they wish to turn; for others, they are on a sailboat, eventually arriving at their destination but constantly adjusting their sails to the wind, and oftentimes one has to sail on a zigzag route because that is the only way to keep moving forward when going against the wind.

Ah, the wind. Often used as a figure of speech for the certain things in life beyond our control. And many songs have been written about it. Dust In The Wind. Blowin’ In The Wind. Candle In The Wind. Winds Of Change. Some people are lucky to be on speedboats, almost in total control of their lives, going head-on with the wind and cutting through the waves with ease. But I guess sooner or later it gets boring, without a sense of randomness and surprise. And pretty soon one would long to be on a sailboat, where challenges inspire planning and creativity, and the resulting product of hard work and imagination brings about deep satisfaction.

Besides, it would be easier to paint while sitting on a sailboat than while cruising at 50 knots on a speedboat. Or to play chess. On a light, steady wind, that is.


Conflict of Interest

I remember a lecture I attended more than a decade ago about Conflict of Interest. In its simplest form, conflict is summarized into the following three items:

1. Investment/interest in a supplier company

2. Investment/interest in a customer company

3. Investment/interest in a competitor company

For those incurable googlists out there, Wikipedia has a very long article about Conflict of Interest, but for corporate conflicts (as opposed to government and other types of conflict, all of which are very interesting by the way), I guess those three phrases just about sum it up.

Now I am having my own conflict of interest here. A part of me wants to wrap up this article right now while another wants to connect what I had just written to another seemingly unrelated topic. Hmmm…let’s see who will win.

(I always try to add a second or even a third dimension to anything I write in order to put some depth. Because a mono-dimensional piece is simply boring. Of course, the more unrelated the other subject is, the more challenging it is to link to the original issue.)

So what can we relate to Conflict of Interest? How about…Life?

Gotcha! I’m not going into that stuff right now. Not because it is cheezy but because it is far too general. For me, general is boring. I’d rather deal with the countless details that underlie the whole complexity of complexities of this thing called Life. See! Now I’m starting to get cheezy.

Another topic then. Ah, how about Sex. I’ve read somewhere that the female orgasm has no role in the procreation of the species. I think this makes some sense because it is only the male ejaculation that is needed in order to fertilize the egg. And there seems to be a conflict of interests here, because while some lazy selfish males just want to pass on their genes and get it over with, their female partners, unsatisfied, are left with the task of rearing their offspring.

Fortunately for the modern woman (and unfortunately for the lazy man), we are no longer living in the caveman days when “wives” were treated almost like property and forced into a life of submission to the every whim of their “husbands”. Today, if the female is left unsatisfied, the male will not have much of a second chance to do the act of passing on his genes.

Unless he pays for it of course.


Duplicity Part Three: The Darkness Within

(First published in May 2009)

I think most if not all of the successful movie and TV characters have a blend of good and bad in their personalities. I believe this is because a purely “good” guy is boring. Too mono-dimensional. And boring. What people can relate to is a protagonist who, although basically a good person, shows just a hint of menace, and allows us occasional glimpses of the darkness within.

Conversely, some villains, particularly the more memorable ones, have some goodness in their hearts that prove they’re still human and not totally unfeeling robots. Because a purely evil villain is also mono-dimensionally boring.

A blend of goodness and badness is needed to add depth to the personality and make it interesting. Take for example Watchmen character The Comedian, described as ”ruthless, cynical, and nihilistic, and yet capable of deeper insights than the others into the role of the costumed hero”. Among the Watchmen characters, I find The Comedian to have the most complex personality, unlike Rorschach whose character’s world view is “a set of black-and-white values that take many shapes but never mix into shades of gray, similar to the ink blot tests of his namesake”.

I’m sure we can all think about our own favorite characters and find that they too have a mixture of good and ill, right and wrong in their personalities. They can’t be all good or all bad – black or white – because human beings are rarely if not never mono-dimensional, and those who seem so surely must have a hidden antithesis to their outward characters: an inner light to an outwardly evil person, or to a “good guy”, a certain darkness within.


Duplicity Part Two: Personality

(First published in April 2009)

Ah, it’s another Sunday morning. Rest for the weary, adventure for the not-so-weary. How we spend our Sundays differ from person to person. I once read something about how the introverts find those large social occasions draining and would need to recharge by spending time alone. The extroverts on the other hand, find solitude boring and are energized by human interactions.

Most people are to certain degrees both introverts and extroverts, but a dominant trait would surface. I guess I’m mostly an introvert, and so you have an idea how I would like to spend my weekends.

I remember Myers-Briggs Type Indicator where people’s preferences are either Extroverted or Introverted, Sensing or Intuitive, Thinking or Feeling, and Judging or Perceiving. The combinations total into 16 different personalities. You might want to take the test and discover your own personality. It’ll be fun.

I first took this test when I was in high school, about two decades ago. My personality then was INTP. I took the test again just this year, and my personality after 20 years is now INTJ. Now I’m not going to bore you with the descriptions of my personalities then and now, but it’s amazing how the personality changes while the core stays the same.



(First published in April 2009)

I remember this nice discussion I had with my nephew a few years ago. We were talking about freedom, and he said that there is freedom from, and then there is freedom to.

He did not care to expound because the point was so obvious. If a person chooses not to work, he has freedom from a boss, from working hours, and from job responsibilities. But unless he is living on inheritance or won the lotto, he may not have much freedom to do certain things, particularly those that cost money.

Suffice it to say there is no such thing as absolute freedom in this world. It’s always a compromise, because freedom is a double-edged sword. Freedom from, freedom to.

This duplicity struck me because it seems that some (most? all?) of the important things in life are wrapped in a paradox. Like distance and passion, for example.

Some say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, while for others it’s out of sight, out of mind. Which do you believe? For me, I go with François de La Rochefoucauld: Absence diminishes minor passions and inflames great ones, as the wind douses a candle and fans a fire.

I am tempted to comment on those great words but I figure that I would just be diminishing the beauty of those lines. So allow me to move on to the next duplicity I can think of. Ah! How about work.

For some people, two heads are better than one and many hands make light work. For others, it’s if you want something done right, do it yourself, and too many cooks spoil the broth.

Ah! The control freaks and the “delegators”. The specialists and the managers. I guess most people are a combination of both up to certain proportions, and a dominant side will surface depending on the task at hand. For those tasks that require timeliness and quantity of work done, I guess a manager would be more effective than a specialist, while for those tasks that prioritize on quality and perfection, a specialist would probably do better.

And then there are the control freaks. Oops, before I offend any of my readers especially those who have obsessive-compulsive personalities, I’d like to think about yet another duplicity. Hmmm…how about risk.

Some people tell you to look before you leap and that it’s better to be safe than sorry, while others say that he who hesitates is lost and nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Again, I would say that maybe most people switch between adventure and safety depending on the risks involved.

I remember this risk management seminar I took more than a decade ago. It taught that risk has two dimensions: probability and magnitude. So in a four-quadrant matrix, risks are roughly classified as low-probability/low-magnitude (there’s a 5% chance that you’ll lose P5,000), high-probability/low-magnitude (there’s a 95% chance that you’ll lose P5,000), low-probability/high-magnitude (there’s a 5% chance that you’ll lose P100,000), and high-probability/high magnitude (there’s a 95% chance that you’ll lose P100,000).

On low-probability/low-magnitude risks, I guess most people would leap without hesitating, but as probability and especially magnitude increase, people tend to become more prudent. Or do they? As my mom often sings, Oh, when will they ever learn? Oh, when will they…ever learn?

But the greatest duplicity of them all, at least for me, has something to do with how people view life. For some it’s black and white, like a chessboard. For others, it’s seamless shades of gray, not unlike a palette.

And that, my friends, I believe, is one of the reasons why some people always disagree.

Happy Easter! innerminds inner minds

Attempts at uncovering the underlying simplicity beneath apparently complex concepts as well as the core complexity within seemingly straightforward issues

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