Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Divinipotent About Discombobulation

"Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!"
~ William Shakespeare

Discombulation, uneasiness, confusion. These words and the state of mind they describe have been in Divinipotent Daily's thoughts lately. The cause would not be worth noting except that it brings attention to how easily we humans can be discomfited.

“Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not yet understood.”
~ Henry Miller

Several days ago, without warning, Facebook changed the look and function of users' home pages — not drastically but subtly. Drastic change might have been better, since the new page left people feeling mildly perplexed and not sure why.

"If you're not confused, you're not paying attention."

~ Tom Peters

Have you ever had a house guest who moved the milk to a slightly different position in the refrigerator? It's like that. What you want is still there, but not where you expected it to be. Not where it is supposed to be.

“He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it!”
~ Joseph Conrad

Conrad might have been speaking of Facebook. One day it was just like a living room full of friends and the next, the laboratory of a large and impersonal corporation conducting a social psychology experiment. This is not as bad as waking up and discovering you are a cockroach, but it is bothersome.

"I believe that the moment is near when by a procedure of active paranoiac thought, it will be possible to systematize confusion and contribute to the total discrediting of the world of reality."

~ Salvador Dali

Dali may be right. Unexpected changes in familiar places, especially when made by a force you had lulled yourself into thinking was benign, do make a person slightly paranoid. "What will these tormentors change next?" — that is the question. 

"A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem."

~ Albert Einstein

And so a powerful force has made a change it considers trivial, and the change has had unintended consequences. New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority is famous for this sort of thing. Experience tells us that, eventually, either Facebook management will make accommodations or Facebook users will get used to the new look and grow comfortable with it (no doubt signaling the management that it's time to shake things up again).

Confusion is not, in itself, a bad thing. Divinipotent Daily finds it endlessly comforting that Albert Einstein once admitted he would "go away for weeks in a state of confusion." Of course, he was trying to work out the fine points of previously unimagined laws of the universe, not simply plug into his social graph.

"I pretty much try to stay in a constant state of confusion just because of the expression it leaves on my face."
~ Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp, it seems, has embraced confusion; one might say he has moved into it and made it his home. Perhaps that's the right attitude. It is working for him. For the rest of us, the words of Emerson will have to suffice.

"People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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