“What can I do to make things better?” (3): ends, means, and the Roomba of contingency

Uncertainty about ends, means and you.

There’s an important caveat to the any understanding we come to about ends, means, and your place in the world: our ideas about “better” are well informed guesses at best. I feel pretty confident that peace and prosperity for all and communities transformed by kindness are highly desirable ends, but I don’t have a very detailed vision of what that would actually look like in practice. My ideas about what would be “better” often turn out to be wrong.

I have some ideas about how progress happens, but attempts to apply them in context (that is, to make specific changes happen in a particular way) are subject to such a vast number of influences, and the feedback is often so unpredictable, that it seems like a textbook wicked learning environment.

I have quite a lot of ideas about what I can contribute, but I know (relatively) so few of the possibilities and so little about how I will change over time, and my efforts are so affected by mood, whim and all those things that just happen (c.f. Covid-19), that it’s very hard to know for sure which avenue to pursue in any given season.

All of which is to say that there is no map that can guide us to our greatest contribution; we need to maintain an awkward combination of open-minded sampling and deeper focus over the long haul in order to maximise our chances of finding a fruitful path.

We need to keep moving, and to keep searching.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...