A Linear mindset finds solutions to problems. It develops hydro-electric power, discovers a cure for polio, and finds a safer spot to land the Apollo 11 Lunar Module. Our human experience requires solutions to problems if we are to endure for the next thousand years.
But our survival also relies on the understanding that problems are simply made up in the mind. They’re not any more real than our most fantastic dreams. What we perceive as problems are simple imbalances or inequities. We label them a problem when we think they can be fixed.
Sometimes that imbalance, or inequity, is just what it is—an imbalance—and no amount of solving will ever absolve us of its impact.
We need solutions to survive.
We need an appreciation of inequities to thrive.
This series on The Hegelian Chronicles examines the long-term impact of the Hegelian Dialectic on narrative structure. The myopic stance incurred by this centuries-old philosophy leads many astray. Writers inherently drawn to more holistic thought must force-fit their understanding of the world into one much more Linear in nature.
The Holistic thinker knows there is another way to approach holism that isn’t merely an appreciation of holism through “synthesis.”
What’s an appreciation of holistic [thinking] vs. an approach of holistic [thinking]?
The Hegelian might think, or appreciate, their synthesis holistic in nature—but their approach is always decidedly logical.
To the Linear mind, Holistic problem-solving is not even a real thing. It sounds like excuses or laziness or nonsense because it’s not addressing the problem directly. Holistic problem-solving is easily discounted because it’s literally not logical.
In the Dramatica theory of story, this disregard of experience finds evidence in the Audience Appreciation of Reach:
This is the source of the dismissive phrase “chick-flick.” Linear thinkers avoid these kinds of stories because the characters within them don’t think as they do. They don’t make any sense.
The Problem-solving Style Appreciation of narrative structure (Linear or Holistic) is a blind spot for Linear thinkers. This lack of self-awareness explains why you’ll find most of them advocating the Hegelian Dialectic approach to synthesis. It’s an approach that makes sense to them and appears to be holistic in nature.
Its solution may be holistic, but the way it was arrived at is not.
This is why the Dramatica theory of story stands out from every other appreciation of narrative structure. Dramatica is a theory of how the mind works, not a formula or form for conflict resolution.
Appreciating this difference in resolving inequities requires an understanding of the difference between the Holistic approach and a holistic approach.
To a linear thinker on the Allied side, WWII was a conflict between good (Allies) and evil (Axis). To the Axis it was a conflict between systemic oppression (people keep forcing us down, preventing us from achieving our own greatness) and self-determination (we are justified in doing whatever it takes to achieve our destiny).
WWII was the linear clash of those two perspectives. Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement wasn’t a holistic approach. It was still based on the notion that those two perspectives existed on a linear scale. The holistic approach was the Marshall Plan (we’ll keep having the same war over and over unless we actually financially step up to ensure Germany and Japan are viable states).
The Marshall Plan, while holistic in nature, was the result of Linear cause-and-effect reasoning. The effect of Chamberlain’s policy compels us to find a different approach that won’t cause that to happen again. The Marshall Plan was a solution to the problem of Chamberlain’s policy.
The solution was holistic. The method, or approach, to that solution, was Linear.
Contrast this with Japan’s approach to conflict during the same period. The Linear mindset would have you believe that the reasons for the attack on Pearl Harbor were limited resources and a strike-first policy. This assumes that the people of Japan were driven by a cause and effect methodology.
In fact, the culture in Japan at that time was predominantly holistic in nature. Siding with Germany, manipulating sentiment against the Chinese, and yes, attacking Pearl Harbor were all the actions of a people who only saw inequities—not problems. Their efforts were intentions of balance (or imbalance), not solutions of conquest.
There is no solution at the root level of the Holistic because there is no such thing as a problem—only inequities that are met with equities (Intentions). Sample any of the Holistic-minded narrative structures on Subtext, and you’ll find a collection of films and novels that emphasize self-actualization overreaching goals.
For the self to thrive, one must appreciate the inequity for what it is: something that can’t be fixed. The balancing of the inequity isn’t a solution, it’s a shift in direction that opens us up to even higher intentions.
Seen holistically, the synthesis examples of Obedience and WWII are only temporary fixes. Their solutions are fleeting because those inequities always exist, waiting to rise back up to the surface.
When the Apollo 11 Lunar Module left the Moon behind, it first needed to dock with the Command Module orbiting high above. This was a problem that needed a solution. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong could not return home safely without cause-and-effect Linear thinking and precise calculations.
They succeeded. Miraculously, this tiny two-person vehicle rendezvoused with another spacecraft 239,000 miles away from planet Earth.
Right before they flipped the switch to ignite the rocket on the Moon, tensions were high. No one knew for sure whether their calculations were correct, or if the Eagle Lander would simply explode on the surface.
Houston gave the go-ahead signal and waited.
Buzz responded, “Roger Houston, we’re number one on the runway.”
A response of jocular equity seeking to level out the inequity of unpredictability. A little humor to dispel the tension, moments before they began their miraculous return back to Earth.
With Linear thinking, we survive. With Holistic thinking, we thrive.
With both, we triumph over the impossible and transform the way we live our lives.