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explanation

  • ex·pla·na·tion
ˌekspləˈnāSH(ə)n
noun
noun: explanation; plural noun: explanations
a statement or account that makes something clear.
“the birth rate is central to any explanation of population trends”
synonyms: clarification, simplification; More

description, report, statement;
elucidation, exposition, expounding, explication;
gloss, interpretation, commentary, exegesis
“an explanation of the ideas contained in the essay”
a reason or justification given for an action or belief.
“Freud tried to make sex the explanation for everything”
synonyms: account, reason; More

justification, excuse, alibi, defense, vindication, story, answers
“I owe you an explanation”

In my experience the best way to understand something, anything, is to explain it to someone else, because:

  • their very willingness to listen presumes a degree of interest you shouldn’t ignore;
  • the structure of your telling will vary and is likely to: 1) improve with each iteration, or 2) become formulaic, uninteresting, and/or unresponsive;
  • you must understand the difference between ignorance and stupid: the former is simply uninformed, the latter uninformable [There is also a distinction to be made between dumb and stupid, but that’s a topic for another forum];
  • it will—if you’ll just listen to yourselves—enhance your own understanding of the topic and improve whatever it is you’re trying to describe—in other words, it offers feedback; but
  • it can also border on justification, which may be offensive to your listeners and unsettling to you, since you had once seemed so committed and have now sown the seeds of your own doubt and undermined the curiosity you inferred from their query.

I had coffee recently with four freshmen, applying for admission to our program, who may have got more than a tasty beverage for their time. I surely did, because it afforded an opportunity to hone my telling of Agincourt. [Is it even possible to have a conversation not involving Agincourt? Probably not.]

Design and Narrative

Once again, Douglas Adams rescues me from the forest of my own narcissism—or is it swamp? When I’m able to stand outside myself—which, if you weren’t aware, is not possible for a narcissist—I begin to understand the notion of wholisticism. Is that even a word? Anyway, it seems Dirk Gently’s wholistic approach to the solution of crime has become my model. I wrote all this without recalling its likely source: Dirk Gently’s Wholistic Detective Agency:

“What I mean is that if you really want to understand something, the best way is to try and explain it to someone else. That forces you to sort it out in your own mind. And the more slow and dim-witted your pupil, the more you have to break things down into more and more simple ideas. And that’s really the essence of programming. By the time you’ve sorted out a complicated idea into little steps that even a stupid machine can deal with, you’ve certainly learned something about it yourself. The teacher usually learns more than the pupil. Isn’t that true?”
― Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Adams is clearly a better writer than I shall ever be. But aside from that uncomfortable truth, he has much more to offer on the notion of the interrelatedness of all things. So this quote is more to the point:

“I’m very glad you asked me that, Mrs Rawlinson. The term `holistic’ refers to my conviction that what we are concerned with here is the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. I do not concern myself with such petty things as fingerprint powder, telltale pieces of pocket fluff and inane footprints. I see the solution to each problem as being detectable in the pattern and web of the whole. The connections between causes and effects are often much more subtle and complex than we with our rough and ready understanding of the physical world might naturally suppose, Mrs Rawlinson.”

“Let me give you an example. If you go to an acupuncturist with toothache he sticks a needle instead into your thigh. Do you know why he does that, Mrs Rawlinson?

“No, neither do I, Mrs Rawlinson, but we intend to find out. A pleasure talking to you, Mrs Rawlinson. Goodbye.”

And so it was I found myself deep in the nexus of Agincourt’s core story. With each telling, I also detect the deepening web of relationships, both human and material, in this factional community.

See: Introduction 1.1

 


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