I deeply appreciated this post by Seth Godin, which outlines a schema for distinguishing “shared objective reality,” “shared cultural reality,” “unshared objective reality,” (think of Copernicus) and “unshared cultural reality” (think of Picasso).

His four-fold table arranging shared and unshared by objective reality vs. cultural reality clarifies a lot!

I think he simplifies “shared objective reality” some, because in [objective] real life that “shared objective reality” gets dragged towards the “shared cultural reality” corner of Godin’s four-fold table by the need to identify surrogates for his convenient “stranger” who can confirm what’s objective for us when we disagree about it. Our surrogates are things like procedures, instruments, measurements, statistics – which periodically reveal themselves to be cultural realities.

But somewhat simplified heuristics have value, in my book. And as a way to conceptualize the problems we face as a nation, a culture, and a large group of people who are required to make decisions together that affect us all, this one is immensely valuable.

I think it makes possible conversations about which “reality” we’re dealing with “here,” “now,” in “this decision” or “this conversation.” It even makes it more possible to think about what the rules are for determining whether or not we’ve put something into the “shared objective reality” category. [Which shared cultural realities are working for us on that score these days? Which ones don’t seem to be working, or don’t seem to be working as well as they used to?]

Godin’s schema doesn’t solve all our problems. But it helps organize them. And it helps clarify them. Both of those are helpful steps towards talking them through, and that’s undoubtedly an indispensable step in solving them.

So thanks, Seth Godin, for the shared objective vs. shared cultural reality heuristic.

I plan to see a lot more of it in the months to come.

red line embellished

curved bookcase in Stockholm Public Library seen from below