Essay on harmony and error

Thinking in Western civilization, as inaugurated by the Greek philosophers, including Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, has been profoundly marked by the concepts of harmony and error. Millennia later, even though they have been altered by different movements, including the uprising of modern science, these three terms still pose a problem, and are debated by thinkers even today. While logic is an important tool to confront and manipulate these notions, art can also be of use, especially by using the truth it manifests through a disguise, as a catapult for articulations within a thinking frame. The notion of difference that a specific culture conceives cannot erase the fact that differences between people exist; instead of eradicating this, an acknowledgement and construction from these variations is more desirable and productive.
Nevertheless, the supposition and aim that humanity could, in fact, do away with mistakes altogether, would also be a consequence of the model of right and wrong that a person or culture sustains. “ But the idea that we can eradicate error – through evolutionary advancement, technological innovation, establishing an ideal society, or spreading the word of God – has a timeless hold on the human imagination” (Schulz 396). In Western culture, this translates into the localization of a pure transcendent being. Stemming from Judeo-Christian tradition and Aristotelian logic, the search for complete purity is prevalent, and this includes erasing away any evidence of error. “ It is alarmingly easy to impute error to those whose beliefs and backgrounds differ from our own. And, as they also show, there is a slippery slope between advocating the elimination of putatively erroneous beliefs, and advocating the elimination of the institutions, cultures, and – most alarmingly – people who hold them” (Schulz 397). Nevertheless, this treatment of error is completely detrimental to society, as has been proven numerous times by history.
The establishment of the eradication of differences as the main objective in a group of people, intricately tied to imperialism, disavows the fundamental structure of human beings: that they are structured around their differences. The search for purity, to be free from mistakes is even paradoxical, as Schulz points out. For example, “ In order to get rid of error, we would already need to be infallible” (Schulz 397). In spite of this, groups of people insist on washing away the differences between people, trying to fit everybody into the same, normal, class.
While this is one possible treatment of differences, Kirk Varnedoe, the main character in “ Last of the Metrozoids”, proposes an alternative: recognize them, accept them and use them to your favor. For example, the following passage reveals how he teaches a child how to catch a football: “ When he caught it, Kirk wasn’t too encouraging, when he dropped one he wasn’t too hard. He did not make him think it was easy. He did not make him think that he had done it when he hadn’t. He made him think that he could do it if he chose” (Gopnik 7). This is paradigmatic, as he takes the error that the child has, the differences that he presents, and accepts it, trying to get him to overcome it through repetition and his own will. “ The real teachers and coaches may offer a charismatic model – they probably have to – but then they insist that all the magic they have to offer is a commitment to repetition and perseverance” (Gopnik 7). Varnedoe offered himself as a model, not so that the children could copy him, but so that they could find the strength in him to go through with their will and achieve their goals.
This point of view can be found in Schulz’ theory as the optimistic model of error, where mistakes are taken into account, and put to work so that something better may be constructed from it. “ In this second, optimistic model of error, the experience of being wrong isn’t limited to humiliation and defeat. Actually, in this model, the experience of being wrong is hardly limited at all. Surprise, bafflement, fascination, excitement, hilarity, delight: all these and more are a part of the optimistic understanding of error” (Schulz 394). This character understands errors and differences as points that allow interpretations and, thus, the development of the potential for creativity. His worldview depends on this structural fault that humans have, as there is where true development can take place.
Varnadoe’s two passions, art and football, allow for the recognition and integration of the structural mistakes, to make a coherent self. The acceptance of errors that this fictional art critic presents is in line with his worldview, as it presented life as structurally disharmonious. “ Critics who tried to homogenize the pictures into a single story undervalued them, because, in a sense, they undervalued life, which was never going to be harmonized, either” (Gopnik 2). Varnedoe, as was developed before, also believes that there is a fundamental error in human structure. He believes that because life is heterogeneous, it is more valuable, or better valued. Because it is impossible to homogenize life, its true value lies in its disharmony, and any attempt to discard these differences would be a misapprehension of it. Football, one of Varnedoe’s two passions along with art, interested him because through the mistakes he could assemble a sense of self. “ The appeal of football wasn’t that it ‘ built character’ – he knew just how cruddy a character a football player could have. It was that it allowed you to make a self” (Gopnik 3). This construction of the self from disparate parts that he achieves through football is very important for him, and can almost be thought of as a personal work of art, taking different, disharmonious parts of his world and assembling them in such a way that they become coherent, if not homogenous. This is not dissimilar to what was proposed as the model for normal distribution. “ The bell curve is a way of aggregating individually meaningless, idiosyncratic, or inaccurate data points in order to generate a meaningful and accurate big picture” (Schulz 399). The construction of the ego through football passes through the summation of the different disjoint parts of the self that Varnedoe holds.
This systematic process of deconstruction and reconstruction, at the heart of Varnedoe’s philosophy, could not be done if a one pure being existed. “ The mysterious baffling things – modern art, the zone defense – weren’t so mysterious or baffling if you broke them down” (Gopnik 7). Comprehension can be made through the disassembling and reassembling of complex ideas. Nevertheless, this is allowed because things aren’t completely unitary and coherent; if they were, there would be no way to deconstruct them, as there would be no smaller parts, just the one pure whole. Harmony, as such, while possible, is not absolute; disharmony reigns, and what can be seen as harmony or well-being is more in tune with dynamic equilibrium, as one has to take into account the structural fault so as to not eliminate differences.
In conclusion, both literature and logical dissertations are helpful in the search of what to do with human error. Even though Western civilization pretends to find a pure transcendent being, confrontation with its inexistence reveals errors which are thought to be undesirable, leading people to try to delete them. Nevertheless, there is another treatment of differences that allows for the sustainment of this structural mistake without leading to violence: the acceptance of differences between individuals and cultures, and the constant aim to make a coherent, if not unitary, set from them. Taking this into account, through art and football, Kirk Varnedoe effectively puts his philosophy into action, deconstructing and reconstructing life and his own ego. One can predict that, until this is taken into account, violence against peoples just because they hold a different culture will, lamentably, keep on happening.
Works Cited