experiences

–Go look at one of those early 20th century American landscape paintings by Redmond Granville, of wildflowers spreading across California fields, or Edgar Payne of a remote lake in the snowy Sierras. Then look at virtually the same painting, but this time also with having a young woman in her calico dress or cowboy on a horse. In an instant, this painting dates the preceding one.

What had been an “idealized-now” flips to an “historicized-then.” Public policy is full of these flips: reforms that work on paper but date immediately when real people with real problems in real time enter the picture—both as subject and as frame.

–Our experiences “lie jumbled up inside us, and we find we have an inner world like a rubbish bin,” wrote the sociologist and psychotherapist, Ian Craib:

This is a different sort of mess…the flux of the inner life and our emotions, about which we maintain the illusion that it can be made orderly and predictable. We might think that the rubbish bin can be sorted out, but it seems to me what the push is towards emptying it and starting afresh.

But we don’t start all over again, and two sets of opposing pressures drive the anxiety of having to sort things out: the centripetal pressures of closing in on what we think we really know and the centrifugal pressures of opening out to recast what has been taken for granted.

–Apprenticeship is when the amateur starts in the expectation that “risks” or “tradeoffs” or “costs” are out there to be identified, only to realize in the field that each has to be specified in more detail (as opposed to? with respect to what failure scenario? under what conditions? just what is it a case of?). And then, over the course of a career, he or she recognizes the challenges arise because what is out there depends on how “it” is defined and managed in the first place by actually-existing human beings in the actually-existing systems in which they find themselves.

In this way, the uprush of experiences render doubt a kind of knowingness—and knowingness, up-piled, is professionalism.

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