Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On perspective-- general versus specific

I write a lot about very particular things that have happened, and then try to extrapolate a larger significance. This is satisfying to me, but I try to be aware that there is definitely a ratchet in people's brains that rises and lowers according to the specificity of what they encounter, and if the ratchet won't go low enough then they won't be interest in the particular thing in question. When the specific concern is not your concern, your brain says "Nope, not interested," possibly dismisses the person dwelling on it as petty, and moves on.

A person who moves exclusively in the general, by contrast, can seem basic, callous, or inept. Like they have stepped back far enough that all of the details have blurred, and it becomes easy to make general statements that are unoriginal and uninteresting, though trivially true. The generalist wants to make general statements, while the specifist always increases the perspective a few notches lower and points out important features which distinguish this thing from that thing. Imagine focusing in on Google Earth right down to street view, and then pulling back out until you can see almost an entire hemisphere. I don't mean to say that what you have to say about what you're seeing can't be useful to interested parties, but let's just say that not all parties are going to be interested. And they will resent you when you're trying to apply general statements to specific situations.

I'm not going to tie this general observation to a specific incidence today, which is unusual for me. But even though it may seem blurry as a result, I hope it has some relevance.

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