🪟 9 - Metaframing
Frame & Axiom #9
Table of contents
It is that time in the build-up of a story where a backstory comes in handy. I have been making mention of the word “framing” multiple times throughout this series of essays, and making the grandiose claim that it is ultimately the end of effective framing that ought to organise my life, not reassurances, not love, not aspirations! Perhaps it is a good time to explain what I mean by it, and expand on a foundation of my worldview, my first axiom, where I speak of solutions of right framing.
🪟 9 - Metaframing
A window to another world (2017) by staypee (Source)
Throughout all axioms, there is one personal tendency I have to credit for so much of how I have made sense of the world. Whether it was a consequence of nature or nurture, I cannot be certain, but I am sure that it is a honed tendency.
It is this — I find ease in allocating the benefit of the doubt. It is rare that I feel the need to stamp my own ground against others, unless out of a childlike immaturity, or judge and wrath at the wrongness of others. And it is not so simplistic as to love giving other people the benefit of the doubt, whether out of a wish to avoid conflict or please the crowd, for it is one stream that flows from a deeper source! It is to love giving my own knowledge the benefit of the doubt.
Is doubt not a necessary response? It is hardly plausible that we might know something. We are only a minuscule field of perception, operating on the basis of the tiniest of datasets. If the discipline of science is an eternal hill to climb in pursuit of knowing what constitutes all things, philosophy to know our capacity for knowing itself, psychology to know the apparatus that knows, why is it that we continue to act as if we may know some things, when all things are necessarily predicated upon such layers and more? The sheer complexity of all things warrants the benefit of the doubt.
We do not know things about others, ourselves, or the world around us. We cannot know. We are only allowed to cultivate beliefs, at most. Reliable beliefs, which here I deem effective framing, compound to form an effective worldview — that should prevent one from walking mistakenly off a cliff and endow the will to live. An effective worldview may indeed prove itself reliable in the court of reality, statistically speaking, but only to those who test them. It is as the domesticated dog may say of man, “we know humans are good because they tend to care for us”, or the insect may say of the man, “we know humans are evil because they stop at nothing to end us”.
It is as I love to recount, that to live is to participate in the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises. Our conclusions are only sufficient. Beyond colloquialism, to mean any conclusion to be accurate in totality is to make the most wishfully grandiose of claims! Any claim to absolute certainty deserves nothing but cynicism.
Necessarily, as a collective drawn out over time and space, humanity is a perpetual clash of merely sufficient conclusions, tainted by an endless compounding of erroneous premises. Our apparatus has never allowed us to percept things-in-itself, only to ascribe meaning to things. We speak of things in the way the hypothetical domesticated dog and insect might speak of man. Is it not a similar pattern of reasoning when we look at gigantic rocks and call it a mountain that is, a hill to climb and a source of beauty and danger, instead of a collection of atoms? It is as per the adage, “we know things not as they are but as we are”. Our vastly finite minds evolve to find coherence in a world of infinite complexity, while the mystical Truth of all things lies inaccessible to us. We may only hope that the coherence we uncover, or reliable beliefs, leads us towards and not away from Truth.
Indeed, effective framing, consequently an effective worldview, may only act as a signal towards Truth and nothing more. It is the best we can do. As Ayn Rand writes, “your mind is the only judge of truth”, so Truth is filtered and coloured by the presuppositions of the mind. Then again, this statement itself is tainted by my own presupposition  that a Truth does exist, an ultimate order that encapsulates all things, necessarily providing a maximally reliable model from which one could act. What if we live in a world that is ultimately absurd, devoid of meaning and order? What good is it if we make presumptions of the state of things without a hint of doubt? It is always less that we do not give others the benefit of the doubt, but we do not give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. Errors of framing do not affect the things-in-itself, only the unwitting bearers of such framing.
There is a common Buddhist aphorism on anger: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Similarly in the Bible: “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” Does this not speak of framing, as anger does arise from a potent and greatly imbalanced framing, that the unwitting bearers of ineffective framing harm only themselves?
Life is an art from insufficient premises, and so it is not merely unwise, but irrational and narcissitic to lack doubt. One with an affinity for social affairs may object: If we doubt ourselves, how do we act on that which ought to be acted upon? To that, I might respond: But how can we be so sure of the knowledge through which we come to such conclusions? Perhaps we ought to refrain from the use of the words “I know...” but instead use more frequently “I believe...”, and act as all statements were as such, for the court of reality should agree that we do not know things in totality. All statements are only beliefs. Informed stabs in the dark. Educated guesses. Nothing can be known, only framed.
It is why, for those who know me, whenever a narrative I present is responded with a reasonable alternative, my immediate first words are frequently “you may be right...” even if I do feel a tingle of disagreement arising within me. It is not to avoid confrontation, for it is also how I respond to my inner antagonist in my mind’s battleground of narratives. Is it not often the case that we are walking contradictions? Of course, some responses are simply unfounded, which do not deserve the same sort of acknowledgement. There may be personal attacks as in argumentum ad hominem or narratives riddled with logical incoherence.
Narratives may be unreasonable. They may also be narrow. In fact, all narratives are narrow, no matter how reasonable they appear. All narratives are reductions of reality into the thinkable and the utterable on our familiar levels of analysis. Take those cases where you have been presented a narrative you have now subsumed into a higher order. For example, an uninspired high school student laments: “School is useless. It is too hard and I hate studying. I am much better with my hands, and I’d be more successful if I left!” Adults should know, having gone through the same ordeal, that as much as the boy is speaking what is true, there exists a higher order in which the truth resides. That is, schooling may be uninspiring, even useless on one level, but not on another — that school, as a hard thing, might be worth doing precisely because it is so. It is that hardship that allows for those asymmetric rewards of say, exposure to collective knowledge, social assimilation, and the cultivation of character.
Here, an adult interprets the same data through the lens of a more sophisticated dataset, arriving at a conclusion in consideration of a greater breadth of premises. We could call it a higher view, owing to sheer experience and the compounding of reliable beliefs. (This is the wisdom of experience, that is so needless to say, if not for the cycle of new generations who find pleasure in cunningly tearing down the wisdom of experience under the guise of fashion, of being outdated. Is it not a reality that we are wired to despise the incumbents? They go out of fashion at some point, and we love seeing to it. Perhaps it is owed to the chaotic creative energy within each generation that discourages them from taking on the wisdom of the preceding generation, simply because it is boring and lacks spark. But I apologise, as I digress.)
The same pattern of data being subsumed into a higher order can be extrapolated to an infinite number of cases. Is there not a similar pattern in those subsumed with the borrowed language of ideology? They have been captivated by the grip of a dazzling story, a part of the whole made potent. This is not to say those parts are incorrect, merely narrow. For instance, we already know it is not pure lies that are dangerously convincing, but those that include within them a grain of truth. In my eyes, the truest possible statement that may be said is that Truth lies beyond our reach, as there is a biological limitation we cannot transcend — and as I have stated, any claims that are irreverent of this reality deserve nothing but cynicism. Reality is always much more complex than any idea allows, and that itself is a reality to be discovered.
Indeed, there exists a hierarchy of truths! A truth may contain another truth, that may contain yet another truth, and therefore be placed on a hierarchy. Recall those eureka moments where you serendipitously connect two smaller truths into one greater truth. In those moments, you uncover a higher order in which a greater breadth of data can be encompassed. That provokes the ecstasy of coherence, and the translation of what was previously chaos into order. Yet we may at most only uncover little truths, which we might call reliable beliefs or effective framing. The mystical Truth lies still perpetually beyond our reach, for even the wisest man atop the mountain faces ahead of him the blackness of the great unknown.
Hence, we ought to be first, considerate of the limits of our knowledge. A man must realise the mere sufficiency of his framing, consequentially to doubt it, assuming he is pragmatic enough. Second, it follows that we ought to seek Truth as far as we are allowed, and to examine our own framing while we do so — that we might uncover progressively higher orders of truth to encompass the greatest possible breadth of little truths within it. The higher a truth stands in a pyramid, the more far-reaching one’s worldview becomes. The will to encompass the chaos in the void is already great, so we ought simply to direct it, lest we live our lives riddled with incoherence, uncertainty and our worry of it. Is religion not a common product of such endeavours? Faith begins where the reliability of our human knowledge falls short.
The starting point is therefore not to seek reassurances, love, and the lot — but to meditate precisely on those passions, to gain a close acquaintance with them, that through such passions, one might ultimately attain an effective framing of the world and of the self to it. To conduct analysis on the level of our framing, of how we see things, is to address all practical problems we face at its deepest source, for it is the case that most problems are symptoms of an erroneous way of seeing the world.
Is it not a new framing that is endowed in the case of a mother cradling her newborn in her arms, that all of a sudden enlightens the mother to a higher order of reality and of herself to it? It goes in the same vein for those who go through maximal suffering, as have Solzhenitsyn through the Gulag and Frankl through the Holocaust, for only through the most radical of experiences, total oppression in their case, can the gift of new framing be endowed — a new, higher way of viewing all things. As Solzhenitsyn writes of the Gulag: “Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realise that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.” There lies truly no limits to the expanse of reality that a new framing can touch.
Certainly, such gifts do not come easily. They arrive of their own accord, and naturally we have to go through a vast number of ineffective beliefs throughout our lives which we then have to break down and rebuild. We struggle with chaos, with uncertainty at all times, while a higher order is left perpetually to be uncovered. The antidote in my eyes, as I have learned from Rilke, is that we must live the questions. Love the questions, keep them close to heart, and pay attention to them. Look out for the thoughts they provoke, and the wisdom they conceal. Why rush an answer to those deep questions? Why rush to connect those concerning contradictions you now puzzle over? A worldview is as complex as the mind of man, correspondent to the infinite complexity of reality itself. To turn chaos into order is a serious and profound process. And time is necessary for processes of that nature.
Nietzsche writes of what is unfinished: “As not only manhood, but also youth and childhood have value per se, and are not to be looked upon merely as passages and bridges, so also unfinished thoughts have their value”. There is value in all stages of the process, and so we ought not to torment ourselves, but to take pleasure in the uncertainty of our horizons, as if the way to further thoughts are still open to us! “We stand on the threshold; we wait as for the digging up of a treasure, it is as if a well of profundity were about to be discovered.”
Perhaps at the peak of it all, we might arrive at the mystical highest order of truth to encompass the mad multiplicity of all things, that is to uncover the deepest level of analysis from which one could measure and act. The most effective framing to encompass all data. The most reliable model by which one should act, through which no uncertainty is known. At that point, who knows one might arrive at the mystical Truth of all truths, the great logos, God Himself. Really, who knows?
To end, as the novelist Michael Proust eloquently put it: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Side note: The will to effective framing lies behind my writing Frames & Axioms. It is to lay out and simultaneously examine my own framing of the world that I have cultivated. I have felt my worldview to be reliable, but relative to the infinite complexity of all things it cannot possibly carry any authority. Hence, I would love for you as a reader to be doubtful of my framing, and take everything with a grain of salt. This is no more than the beliefs one person has deemed reliable for himself.
 Here is how I arrive at my presupposition of a Truth. Let’s posit for a moment there was an all-knowing One. Would it not be the case for the One that all chaos would be subsumed in a certain order? And that the One would know no uncertainty? Everything is known, for the One analyses on the highest possible order that encapsulates all things. Perhaps this would be the sole One to be making reliable conclusions from sufficient premises.