sensemaking through irony

How can we thrive in a broken system? This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges many of us face today, whether it be where we work, the institutions we deal with, or the governance systems that control us. Geoff Marlowe explains that how we perceive the situation and what type of humour we use, are critical in getting to a point where we may be able to take constructive action. Neither apathy nor cynicism will get us there, only irony may.

Ironic humour is often misunderstood and maligned by the positionally powerful because it challenges the deference they can assume is their due …

Which raises the question that if irony is so vital in maintaining a positive state in the face of an aspiration / actuality gap, why not just focus on humour?

That’s because without honesty and humility, any humour intended as ironic runs a real risk of sliding into sarcasm – literally “tearing off the flesh” of others.

Humour deployed as a form of violence isn’t going to contribute to the collective sense making, decision making & action taking that’s vital in an increasingly uncertain and unpredictable world. —Thriving in a broken system

A related article explains that three key roles can have a significant blocking influence on value-creating relationships — Decision Maker, Expert, & Resource Controller. But when these players broaden their perspectives — through humility and honesty — then “distributed, iterative sense-making, decision-making and action-taking” are enabled.

Active, wide scale involvement in sense-making will bring wellbeing benefits, as employees will a) be protected from social isolation by these ongoing and meaningful dialogues, and b) find agency and purpose in their activities, which massively correlate with wellbeing. —Adaptive Cultures

humility and honesty enable an ironic perspective

Kieran Egan, in The Educated Mind, describes five levels of understanding — Somatic, Mythic, Romantic, Philosophic, & Ironic. The last is the most difficult to master and many are not able to get to this level of understanding. It’s like George Box’s adage — “All models are flawed, but some are useful.” — or F. Scott Fitzgerald stating — “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”  Irony is a powerful sensemaking tool.

Ironic — it involves the “mental flexibility to recognize how inadequately flexible are our minds, and the languages we use, to the world we try to represent in them”; it therefore includes the ability to consider alternative philosophic explanations, and is characterized by a Socratic stance in the world.

Ironic understanding and ironic humour may be the keys for us to progress into a meta-modern future.

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