Application: Writing

This entry is part 5 of 14 in the series A theory of perspective

Science goes up by refuting it. After a thesis is proposed, an antithesis will come up, and then they combine together in a dialectical process to produce a synthesis. When this synthesis is registered in the memory of an expert, it becomes a thesis, and the dialectical process is not worth to remember anymore. It is not completely forgotten, but they become history. The expert, therefore, forgets how she becomes to be.

When she explains the concept to a novice, that synthesis is the only thing she can pull out from her memory. It is ordered and structured with a dozen more syntheses, and that network can be pulled out any time if anyone asks, reflected in the structure of any textbook. But that network is overwhelming for the novice. He doesn’t have the necessary background to follow what she says, and doesn’t have enough syntheses to understand the rest of them.

Let’s say the expert wants to explain that elephants are large mammals of the family Elephantidae and the order Proboscidea. Where should she start? The knowledge gap is too much, trying to explain any term is like going to the rabbit hole. But if she remembers how she was once a novice like him, then she will remember the struggle she had had to learn the knowledge. She will remember that for each synthesis in her memory it has a dialectical process behinds, and she will realize that what he needs is not the web of syntheses that she has, but the experience of such processes that make each synthesis worth to remember.

The experience of the dialectical process is not a comfortable feeling. Having to combine two contradictory ideas together creates dissonance and stress. She had to pay full attention to solve it, and being able to overcome it is why she is regarded as expert. People pay money for her because they don’t have time to experience those processes – they are busy to experience other processes.

The expert gets into a dilemma: the novice needs to experience the dialectical process to fully appreciate the synthesis, but whatever she can draw from her memory – whether it is a thesis, an antithesis, a synthesis or a name of the dialectical process – is not a dialectical process. But if it isn’t from her memory, then from where? In other words, the expert is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.

But if she takes a walk for 15 minutes, she will realize that it’s better to not try to define the concept and defer it to the end of the explanation. Because synthesis is the output not the input, the explanation should be closed with “…is the elephant”, not started with “the elephant is…”. In other words, she has to stop thinking about the elephant in order to explain it.

The sentence will now change from

Elephants are large mammals of the family Elephantidae and the order Proboscidea


When a large mammal is in the family Elephantidae and the order Proboscidea, it is an elephant

Suddenly the strategy is clear. To explain elephant, she has to forget it and focus on mammal first, then modify its meaning. If he hasn’t known what mammal is, then she just needs to reapply the strategy to it. Because he has experienced the process, so even when he doesn’t know what mammal is, he will still get that elephants are large mammals of Elephantidae and Proboscidea. I guess transforming an unknown object to another unknown object is easier than trying to imagine an unknown object having various unknown features.

By moving the concept to be explained to the end of the sentence, the definition will become a mini story. The subject of the sentence becomes a character who faces a problem, and then later on beats it with an abstract concept. The reader will have a stress and a climax, and the explanation will be stressful and relieving at the same time. He will get the definition even when she doesn’t use it.

When the reader has a stress, his brain alarms that there is something wrong with his life, and an intrinsic incentive to find the solution will come up. He will pay more attention than usual, making meta phrases like “the main point is” or “it’s important to note that” unnecessary. When the solution is his solution (not the author’s), then a synthesis will be registered in his memory.

With a psychological stress placed at the beginning of the explanation, the author will enter the story mode. In this mode, the writing will be a story itself, and she doesn’t need to find other stories and examples to illustrate it. Many rhetorical devices will be used, but the aim is not to stimulate the readers, but to form concept from “the void”. Every analogy, figure of speech, stylistic device, etc. is not embellishment, but a way to reduce the stresses from the induced stresses. It’s less about coupling the jargon with flowery words or jokes, which only have situational effects, and more about weaving them into memory. The ideas aren’t simplified, but are primed and uncovered later on.

When the writing is playful and stressful at the same time, each sentence will sound authoritative and absolute. But because it always introduce new antitheses, corrections can always be added in the next sentence. This style will make the reader feel like the author knows what she is talking about, even though he really lacks the background to follow it. But if her intention is not to trick him, then it will be one of the hardest challenges she will ever make.

Although swapping the structure of a sentence seems easy, seriously doing this for a whole writing is not, because the writer has to reorganize her schema and make the body of knowledge become a story. For the reader, being continuously stressed and then relieved is no difference to torture, because the art of torturing is to make the victim live in an endless pain.

The sentence

For the reader, being continuously stressed and then relieved is no difference to torture, because the art of torturing is to make the victim live in an endless pain.

is a way I torture you. The word ‘torture’ is scary and unexpected – it absorbs a lot of your energy to make sense of it. But I don’t stop yet, but keep applying pressure by explaining the word, forcing you to spend even more energy after the comma. It’s like I’m pushing your head into the water; the more you fight the more I push. But when you are about to faint, I pull you out of the water to let you feel the fresh air in a new paragraph.

In order to feel what the readers feel, I had to torture myself tenfold. After that idea came up, I just wanted to have a deep sleep. But I couldn’t. I lay in bed, feeling my energy was draining out from my body, but my brain didn’t stop. New ideas still came like flood, demanding me to grab the phone to note them down, even though I couldn’t lift a finger. For the rest of the day, I just wanted to lying around doing nothing. In the next two or three days it seemed that I was back to normal, then suddenly in the following day I just didn’t want to do anything again. It took me a week to fully recover.

I don’t think there exists a torturer who want to find every way to help his victims out of trouble.

*   *   *

Let’s rewrite this section.

When the expert says “the elephant is…”, she accesses the [elephant] perspective and find a movement in there to complete the sentence. Each clearness in there is a door to access other perspectives:

Because there is no clearness elephant in the [elephant] perspective, all the expert knows is that understanding elephants is so easy, but she can’t pinpoint exactly why she gets that confidence. She has to escape it and find a perspective where elephant lives in, so that she can make it a synthesis. Preferably that perspective should be familiar with the novice, and this requires her to acquire a lot of perspectives. This is hard, but this is doable.

Usually, a single sentence cannot explain anything. She has to build background from “the void”, and the best way to do this is via priming. If the jargon has an everyday meaning that he can understand, or can be convert to verb or adjective form, she can use that to develop a new, specialized sense. For example:

If from childhood the child tend to avoid confronting…. This avoidance will …

Because the topic in the second sentence (avoidance) is primed, the reader will feel that it’s a natural development. But because it is different to the topic of the first one (childhood), so he will feel a little difference. The combination of both will provoke his curiosity, making him going from one perspective to another, rather leveling up in an endless ladder of knowledge.

The same can be applied with larger units in the article, be it sentences or paragraphs. As long as the start of the next unit is an elaboration of an implicit understanding of the previous one, then a fadedness will be unfaded and become a clearness. But because this clearness – now plays the perspective role – is different to the previous perspective, then we have a jump between them. This will make him not feel lost when the topic is changed suddenly, but make her and her colleagues not feel bored when reading a thing they already know. The perspective is transforming.

Let’s take another example. Let’s say she wants to explain potential energy:

Potential energy is the energy possessed by an object because of its position relative to other objects. (Wikipedia)

This time, rather than converting the definition into a dialectical movement, we can use priming instead:

When an apple suddenly appear in the middle of the space, it immediately has a potential, a relative distance between it and the Earth.

The jargon potential is presented as if it is a synonym of relative distance, because relative distance is crucial to understand potential. But what is actually happening here is that other features of the jargon are primed within the context (as an intrinsic property, of the apple, in the relationship, with the Earth), so when those fadednesses are unfaded, his understanding on the jargon will be refined unconsciously. In other words, the definition is sprout out throughout the text.

Because his working memory can only hold up to 4 clearnesses at one time, she has to pick a most important keyword to associate it with the jargon, and leave others primed within other words that he can understand. This makes any description can only be a slice, a cross section, a… perspective to the object, and she has to constantly change it to help him understand it fully. Depending on the mood, a person in low mood can feel the perspective change drags them out of trouble, and a person in high mood can feel trouble is dragged into them.

So far we have discussed two stylistic devices that can be explained with this theory: synthesis and priming. There is another one, parallelism, which is better explained in the section Finding the balance point. So in summary we have:

  • Synthesis: the perspective is a clearness produced by the dialectical movement in the previous one
  • Priming: the fadedness is embedded and brought up later
  • Parallelism: each mapping between two perspectives is itself a perspective

So word after word, and sentence after sentence, the readers are brought from one perspective to another. Each clearness activates a previous memory, and the whole movement becomes a perfect combination of words. It is this perfect combination of words that both he and she are chasing after, but the way this combination represents is different to each person. This sentence is in a different perspective to the previous ones, but overall they are both clearnesses in this paragraph.

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