Miss Crawford: “Oh! I know nothing of your furlongs, but I am sure it is a very long wood, and that we have been winding in and out ever since we came into it; I must speak within compass.”
“We have been exactly a quarter of an hour here,” said Edmund, taking out his watch. “Do you think we are walking four miles an hour?”
“Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.”
Mansfield Park By Jane Austen
I really do believe I am starting to understand my friends on both sides of the aisle. I have many wonderful friends, who like the delightful Miss Crawford above, know they have walked a great distance and have no desire to be attacked by a watch.
While Jane Austen describes the phenomenon well, my data-loving friends will need a different paradigm for understanding our societal communication problems in a manner that leads to functional solutions. Let’s think quantum physics, here. We have populations from two overlapping universes trying to interact on a single plane. Each side brings their reality to the table. Now, I am convinced that the dimension we are living in can only remain stable if elements from both universes that contribute to this dimension are employed. However, the data and facts that one side employs have absolutely no meaning to the other side.
Because the Miss Crawfords of this world have no use for data and facts, the data-lovers tend to believe the others are embracing lies. Of course the Miss Crawfords know how they feel. Their fear or happiness is not a lie and how dare those other people call their whole universe a lie.
So in one universe, data doesn’t exist in a replicable quantifiable form. The only facts that are valid are the ones that confirm their own feelings that something is not quite right. Measurements, like the watch, are manipulations, representing little more than an attack.
How on earth are we going to surmount this divide? We could be like Edmund and put our watches away and indulge those who have no use for them. This didn’t work out well for Edmund and led Miss Crawford into troubled circumstances. We must communicate. The first step to overcoming any problem is to admit that something isn’t working and will never work using current methods. Data-lovers might just as well put away their watches and think up better ways to communicate with the aliens. As for the Miss Crawfords, they might do well to admit that everybody is different and different people see different things and have different priorities, histories, and feelings.
So far so good, we are now facing each other with the watches put away and with a determination to recognize that we are all have different priorities and feelings.
Shall we try step two? What is step two? Some therapists have insisted that step two consists of “I feel” statements such as, “When you start talking numbers and science to me I feel threatened and invalidated.” (Stopped writing here to laugh) This doesn’t really work very well. The data person can play the roll. “Oh you are saying that my science answers are not what you need.” Sounds lovely. Sounds like we are getting somewhere. Not really. This exercise strokes the Miss Crawfords, but leaves the data-lovers trying hard not to roll their eyes and use the F… word.
Step two must meet the needs of both parties and that is why the whole divide exists. Data lovers can play the “I feel” formula. After all, it is just a formula. However, those who process the world through data don’t get anything except frustration out of the exercise. “When you don’t slow down when I tell you the speed limit is sixty, I feel like you are a dangerous idiot,” doesn’t really fit the model
In looking at the Miss Crawfords to try to find a step two, we discover that basically, they seem to be a rather fear-filled group. I can only wonder how they feel when we scream the CO2 level exceeds 400 parts per million. It’s never been that high before! The numbers mean nothing to Miss Crawford, but the sense of urgency is going to send her running toward her familiar universe where problems are solved by a hero, or by talking about feelings, or thinking positive thoughts. Soothing mantras are the way to solve problems. The big hero assures Miss Crawford, “I’ll protect you Little Lady. Just let me get a bigger gun.” Curiously, Miss Crawford doesn’t kick the hero in the groin and march off to buy an electric car, she gives him the money for a bigger gun to protect her. We really need to communicate with this gal.
Another problem of communicating with Miss Crawford is that she has dozens of suitors, who understand her vulnerability and use it to seduce her. The data-lovers have serious competition for her attention. Of course those other suitors are just after her money. She knows this and can sidestep the worst of the lot, usually, but she will in the end choose security in whatever way she interprets it.
Step two then becomes constructing a path toward security that makes sense to Miss Crawford while a dozen other suitors are telling her to go the other way. Curiously, I think Jane Austen may offer us some answers in the form of Fanny Price, the scientist among her peers. Fanny showed the way. She lived a life free from fear. She loved wholeheartedly. I suspect that the only way to reach the Miss Crawfords of this world is to take their hands and show them how safe and wonderful this dimension is when we build it with both science and heart. I don’t see how to do this using mass media, maybe there is a way, but I do see how we can reach out the Miss Crawfords in our families, schools, churches and among our facebook friends, and say, “See how beautiful this is. Come with me. I’m not afraid.”
As for the Miss Crawfords who do not care to be attacked by measurements that are always either too fast or too slow, I suggest you read Mansfield Park. It is available in video form. My book Something About Maudy was written to be an assuring read about building community to solve problems. The Miss Crawfords will find strength in the arts. Miss Crawford, in order to pursue step two, set aside your political concerns and pursue the arts.