Ironic Space

The gap between contradictions—such as the contradiction between what you think about something and the evidence about it, of which you may only recently have become aware. It is a paradox which, if recognised, demands a resolution, but may never get one. It is the obscurity that comes in inherited myth or sacred language, bringing the plain delight and enigma of incomprehension. Or it is a clash between ideas which are consistent within themselves, but not with each other. A momentary loss of bearings gives us the disorientation enjoyed in humour, quickly resolved. But, if the contradiction cannot be resolved except with long reflection—if at all—this is ironic space, a main source for, and a necessary condition of, culture and judgment.I87

Ironic space is the habitat of questions from which there are insights to be derived, but no definitive answers. There is an illustration of this in Titian’s painting Noli Me Tangere, which has Jesus shrinking from Mary Magdalene as she reaches towards him in a tension between closeness and separateness which invites reflection, never quite resolved. Reason is not enough: the certainty it achieves is at the cost of simply ignoring the difficulties. Deep reflection in ironic space may not discover a solution, but may make a person. “What is at stake” comments Charles Taylor, “is the definition of those inchoate evaluations [i.e., not yet mature, but establishing and testing the most basic assumptions] which are sensed as being essential to our identity.”I88

Lean thinking demands thought. Ironic space consists of questions and meanings which demand thought to be sustained for a long time. It is created by a society’s culture. The most fertile form of culture in this context is religion.

 

Related entries:

Identity, Implicit Truth.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was an economist, historian and writer, based in London. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, Lean Logic and Surviving the Future. A film about his perspective and legacy - The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation? - was released in 2019, directed by BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong. For more information, including on Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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