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              The Seductive Nature of Synthesis and Subject Matter

              When a problem isn’t a problem.

              Problem-Solving Style

              Synthesis sounds good. It reminds us that we’re better together, that 1+1=3, and that a win-win situation is always better than a no-win situation. Reaching a synthesis draws us in because it feels like the very best way to resolve conflict.

              Problem is— it’s not the only way.

              As demonstrated in the previous article, The Curse of the Hegelian Dialectic, the Linear-minded approach to resolving conflict fails to capture the totality of everyone’s experience. The Hegelian Dialectic concept of thesis-antithesis-synthesis works—but only if one accepts the presence of a problem and a solution, and a cause and effect process for dealing with those problems.

              The Cause and Effect of Synthesis

              The Holistic mind understands problem and solution and can appreciate cause and effect—but its baseline of operation runs on tides and waves, allowance and direction. It sees inequity where one sees a problem and equity where another sees a solution.

              Thesis-anti-thesis-synthesis appears in a Linear mindset and context:

              In the obedience example [from the previous article]…

              Thesis: children must be obedient to their parents for their own good

              Anti-Thesis: ongoing Obedience is oppressive

              These two are fundamentally incompatible notions and thus clash until …

              Synthesis: We stop being children and thus no longer require the Obedience.

              This example of Obedience is cause and effect reasoning. Both thesis and anti-thesis cause problems: if we continue to allow them to persist, then the effect will be higher and greater conflict. Therefore, the answer (solution) is to stop being children, and we will no longer require Obedience.

              The Compromise of a Solution

              The Holistic is never at ease with forcing two into one, only at ease with a shift in direction that increases the flow of communication.

              I agree – synthesis isn’t forcing two into one. It’s not, “fine, let’s have hot dogs and pizza”. It’s more like, “it’s time we stopped having dinner together” or “both our choices are actually bad for us, so it’s time we started eating salads”

              The result is still a solution.

              By forcing two into one, I refer to the Linear concept that a third truth somehow solves two opposing truths. To the Holistic, no solution ever works because those truths still exist. They can never be proven wrong because, remember, the holistic sees the totality of everything all at once. In that snapshot appreciation of duality, all points-of-view maintain their truthiness—throughout the narrative, from beginning to end. Therefore, all one can do is balance the flow of those truths.

              There is no solution.

              The Matrix is a perfect example of the Holistic approach to resolving inequity. Personal truths are held up against natural skepticism from beginning to end, with no solution that saves the day. Only an intention. A beginning to believe.

              Again, this is different from the interpretation I always took from the Matrix, but I’m open to the possibility that I just never really understood the movie properly. I will say that seems a little out of step with the movie itself, which is so often positing pretty strong philosophical perspectives about reality vs non-reality.

              There is a difference between what characters talk about and what is driving narrative conflict.

              There is a difference between Theme and Subject Matter.

              Subject Matter and Narrative Structure

              As characters within a story, we could be talking about the indignities of border control and internment camps. But what drives our conversation is an argument between certainty and potentiality. I’m confident that illegal immigrants lead to higher instances of crime, while you see the potential of hostile hospitality to create even greater evil.

              Many would assume Safety or Compassion to be the Theme of such a conflict, but they’re not. Safety and Compassion are simply the topics of Thematic consideration. It’s what you want to say about Safety or Compassion that determines Theme.

              When discussing these topics, we could just be arguing about certainty or potentiality. Or we could be exploring the difference between cause and effect. I want to stamp out the roots of terrorism, while you focus on the impact of people fleeing third-world countries. Or we could even be arguing a motivation door logic vs. a motivation for feeling. If we let everyone in, then we’re vulnerable—versus the strength of vulnerability that comes from caring for everyone.

              Regardless of the specifics, those Elements drive the narrative and determine the order of thematic concerns within a story. Certainty and Potentially are Theme. Safety and Compassion are Subject Matter.

              The characters in The Matrix spend an excessive amount of time talking about reality vs. non-reality, but what are the Authors saying about those conversations?

              That’s where you’ll find the necessary information to structure a story.

              Are the Authors saying what you’re seeing can never fully align with the objective reality of things? Or are they saying perception and reality are simply a matter of juggling your disbelief with a little faith?

              Are they arguing that you need to begin to believe?

              Know Your Intent

              Both synthesis and subject matter play into the development of a dramatic argument. The former requires Authors to dig deep into their creative intentions and unearth the real purpose of their writing. Is it to explore this area of human experience, or is there something you want to say about this particular part of life?

              With the latter, writers must question the appropriateness of synthesis given the context of their work. Are you drafting a process that sees problems in need of a solution? Or are you writing about the experience of addressing inequities in our lives?

              If you answered yes to the last question, know there is a way to structure your story that honors that intent. One that doesn’t force you to undertake the linear process of reaching a synthesis.

              You don’t need to compromise your understanding of the world.

              Never Trust a Hero.

              Subscribe and receive our FREE PDF E-book on why the concept of a "Hero" in story is outdated, and holding you back from writing a great story.