All my life I’ve been trying to find my place in a world where I felt I didn’t properly fit into any of the categories presented to me. With the world constantly changing at such a great pace, it has become harder than ever to find our place – and that is scary.
I can tell you several things about me that are true (I’m a linguist, a teacher, from the island of Jersey, British, and male) but they will almost certainly give you an overall impression of me that is false. The way to get the fullest picture of who I am is not through definitive labels like these but rather by holding contrasting elements in tension: I’m male, but I’ve grown up in predominantly female environments; I’m a teacher, but I’ve never wanted to work in schools; my roots are in an International Finance Centre, but I didn’t want to be a lawyer, accountant or banker; I’m a linguist, but I didn’t learn to read till I left university etc.
The image above is “Ping” – it sounds like a lightbulb moment, or a cash register, or the hitting of a target, doesn’t it? Ping is a stylised icon for weighing scales. In commerce (trade), health (diet) and justice (society) we use scales to compare a new thing with a pre-existing standard in order to judge whether or not that new thing is identical, or at least equivalent, to the standard. But in “the new normal” there is no standard for one side of the scales.
Time to Ping – to shift our focus from the pans of the weighing scale to the beam between them: our goal is to get the beam to balance, and that is achieved by holding the contents of the two pans in tension. Maintaining balance is a continual process of adjustment and re-adjustment: adding to, taking from or shifting between the contents of each pan. This is liberating and exciting.
The default we have inherited is either for one to obliterate, dominate or subsume the other; or else for the two to homogenise in a lowest common denominator that impoverishes both. We are right to fear both of these options. By contrast, Ping is about maintaining a peaceful, enriching tension in the interaction of two or more individuals/disciplines/communities/nations etc. With tension, our muscles become stronger; without it we get flabby.
There will always be fixed points for both sides, but there is a much bigger, more dynamic and excitingly liberating space in between.