The Beauty of Specificity

A few years ago I set myself the goal of understanding human behaviour within 10 years. I was really keen on the question of what makes us human and so I’ve been looking for universal patterns to form theories about ‘the typical human’.

The past year has shown me I’ve been very off the pulse with Brexit and Trump etc — thinking “surely that won’t happen” and being surprised each time. I’ve been thinking through how to put that right, and come to the conclusion that you have to do a lot of groundwork in knowing the specifics before jumping to abstractions, and that it’s ok that it takes a while. In economics, individual idiosyncracies are unhelpful noise. Now, I’m seeing the noise, the context, the specificities as the interesting thing.

I celebrate that a friend gets so lost in stuff that interests her that she has previously forgotten that I’m there, that another friend set up a madrigal choir at the age of 16, another friend insists that I wash all food thoroughly except green leaves, another keeps a can of ginger beer in her fridge because she thinks it looks pretty. I shared this blog with a friend and he suggested that I include some of my own idiosyncrasies — when I asked my Mum about mine she responded “Tea!” (I drink 8+ cups a day) and the way I dress (I used to wear a lot of my clothes backwards, and won’t think twice of wearing a clown clothes on a normal day).

These things don’t show up in the universal patterns, but any attempt to change the world involves dealing with people — in all of their idiosyncratic glory.