Discontinuity

An invitation into the unknown.

Image by Alexandr Potapov from Pixabay

A discontinuity is an interruption of a continuous flow in time or space. What begins afterwards is a new flow. Using the words of the philosopher Michel Foucault, after a discontinuity, “things are no longer perceived, described, expressed, characterised, classified, and known in the same way.” He was talking about History with a capital H, but it applies to every aspect of life. Discontinuities shift our reality so that nothing will ever be the same again.

Discontinuities often manifest themselves externally. Something happens — or does not happen — in our world that alters our status quo and throws us off balance. It can be an adverse event, such as a loss or failure, or a positive one, such as falling in love, a birth, a promotion or an acquisition.

Whatever the nature of the event, it deeply shakes our world, which, from that moment on, is no longer the same.

It doesn’t have to happen directly to us. It can also occur far away, such as a war somewhere in the world or climate change. Yet, it still triggers something in us.

So much so that the resulting discontinuity arises externally but reaches full manifestation within us.

It is subjective rather than objective.

In fact, the discontinuity often manifests within us without any external event acting as a trigger. We are doing the usual stuff we do every day, like preparing breakfast or chatting with a friend, and suddenly we feel it.

It is there. Something inside us has shifted forever.

Suddenly we see everything differently. Things out there are no longer the same; our world has changed.

An invitation into the unknown.

Whenever we sense that something is missing, the world invites us to be the resolution and become that which brings forth even more beauty, productivity, alignment, health, and contribution. — Jim Dethmer.

Whatever the origin of the discontinuity, it is now there, and it is up to us to choose what to do with it.

We can ignore it and do our best to continue living and working as if it never happened. We can deny it, hide it or try to forget it as soon as possible. We can push it out of our awareness. With any luck, we might even forget it even though we know very well that it is irreversible.

Or we can welcome it as an invitation, a call to start a new adventure as a person, company, or community.

What is that discontinuity asking us to become? What is inviting us into?

Answering these questions is as much fascinating as it is scary, though.

Because every discontinuity, by its very nature, is an invitation into the unknown.

We know what already exists and what led us where we are. We can see or perceive the beginning of the discontinuity before us. But we have no way of knowing what comes next, what awaits us on the other side of it. The only way to find out is by going through it.

In hindsight, discontinuities seem like the most obvious thing in the world. It looks so obvious that we even struggle to understand how we couldn’t see it before.

Being before a discontinuity or inside it is way more challenging.

Horizon sunset background, minimal pastel design. Image by rawpixel.com

I guess it is like standing on a Portuguese beach in the 1400s or so, looking at the horizon line, down there where the ocean and the sky touch forming a long horizontal line. A line that denotes the end of the known world.

People looked at that distant line with a mix of curiosity to know what lies beyond and fear because there is almost certainly death beyond that line. They all admired it from a distance, with their feet firmly planted on the beach, knowing there was no way to discover what lies beyond that line other than to set sail and cross it.

And someone, in fact, did.

I guess they were considered fools by most people.

After all, they were setting out without knowing where they were going, without having any maps to follow, with the strong possibility that everything they knew about the world was useless if not wrong.

I also guess that many did not even get to cross that line. Or maybe they did only to disappear on the other side. Shipwrecked, perhaps feeling fool for having tried.

A few discovered another shore, another land, other people. The new world. And then they returned, drew maps, and wrote books that expanded the world for all the others who stood on the shore.

We call those few who made it pioneers, explorers, innovators, and heroes.

Those who failed are just fools that everyone soon forgot about.

Because those who keep their feet firmly planted on the solid ground give more importance to the result than to the process. But that is another story.

Jamestown ships, vintage drawing illustration. Free public domain CC0 image. View public domain image source here

Are you ready to sail?

For some time now, I have felt that our society has arrived at the shore of a discontinuity, vast and blue as the ocean.

And we can’t see what awaits us beyond this discontinuity.

There is just that line at the horizon and the awareness that the only way to discover what’s beyond that line is to set sail and cross it.

A scary idea for most.

Yet more and more people and organisations are asking themselves whether they should go and see what lies on the other side.

Many, fortunately, are trying.

They do it using the knowledge, maps and tools they have.

Sometimes it works, sometimes they drift, sometimes they sink.

After all, they know what has brought them this far, but no one knows what is in and beyond this discontinuity. If they knew, it wouldn’t be a discontinuity.

The wonderful thing is that every person, organisation or community exploring this discontinuity also expands the world for everyone waiting on the shore.

Perhaps I should now play the expert and reveal what is on the other side and how to get there.

Unfortunately, I don’t know.

And honestly, I don’t think anyone knows, not even those who do.

Or maybe I should close with a motivational quote to urge you to set out into the unknown with courage and resolve.

But if you also feel this discontinuity, there is really not much I can say that you don’t already know.

We may both feel the same discontinuity, but the invitation is highly personal. The choice to leave the shore is subjective.

In the end, you need to be ready to subtract what is holding you on the shore so you can sail through the discontinuity and into the future. A bit of madness and a group of fellow travellers ready to set off with you would probably help.

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