Vagueness

I was looking through some of my university coursework the other week and saw some comments from my professors that made me ponder. There seems to be some commonalities right from my year five report telling me to “focus my efforts” to my master’s degree essays telling me to not be afraid to “drive the point home” and “stop being vague.”

Truth be known I often feel vague. And in a world of passionate “go-getters” with suitcases full of spunk and ruthless pragmatism (quote House of Cards), I don’t feel I’m driving much home. But this got me thinking about whether there is any value in being vague in a world full of decisiveness.

So I had a little look at what is defined as vague in academia to help. Here is the definition:

“A proposition is vague when there are possible states of things concerning which it is intrinsically uncertain.” (Peirce 1902, 748)

The words “intrinsically uncertain” quickly started to sum up how I feel about many things in the world. This also explains why I make little attempt to say anything definitively and often change my mind depending on how I feel at any given time. I basically realised when reading these words that everything could be “intrinsically uncertain”.

I think the issue with vagueness is not the thing in itself, but rather, the time we spend trying to change our vague feelings about something/someone into affirmative action. Feeling vague is not perceived to be a positive trait and it seems to me that we are taught to not be vague about anything but to express strong positions on our likes/dislikes and wants/don’t wants.

I’ve found that being creative hasn’t helped with this. Creativity is the result of a flexible mind, one that refuses to stagnate by perching in one position. Creatives see things from many angles and possibilities and this can be become mind-boggling where there is no compass point and only open roads and what-ifs.

With such a head on my shoulders, I have an addiction to moving around. Not necessarily physically, though I love to travel, but metaphysically. I’ve dabbled with pretty much all orientations of myself as I could’ve mustered in my humble 27 years on the planet. Party-goer, philosopher, big child, serious adult, traveller, journalist, corporate lady – the impulsive deliberator, etc.

We all have a million reference points that we find from our own lives. Moments that fundamentally change the way we view ourselves and the world around us. And each one of these moments will move so swiftly and intricately that may not notice their long-term impact on us at all. Major and minor life experiences, over-inflated egos, losing at football, depression, wealth, ugliness, love and support, the homeless man on the street, that one who broke your heart – the list is perpetual.

Still, there are some things that we know without needing to think. Those gut feelings about who we want to become and what’s important to us. For example, from the year dot (well after wanting to be an Olympic gymnast), I’ve always wanted to write a novel. Not particularly sure why or what good it will do me or anyone else, but this has stayed true for as long as I can remember and this “hunch” is the one of the few only things I know for sure. A lot else is vague and I’ve started to think that it’s vague because it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things.

So going back to my initial question of whether being vague is useful, I’d say yes to a certain extent. It makes us realise that perhaps when we don’t feel strongly about something we are just barking up the wrong tree in our pursuits. Often we feel vague when we simply don’t care enough about what we are trying to shed light on, or if it’s a relationship that we feel vague about, perhaps it’s just not serving us anymore.

I realised I often had these moments in a board room discussing technical things. Some of my colleagues would be totally “in the zone” giving valuable opinions to topics and I would be floating about in my own world unable to really form any opinion on what was being discussed. Not only did this make me feel that I just didn’t comprehend what was going on fully enough to contribute, I also felt that I couldn’t relate to those around me.

Since then I have changed jobs to work in a more creative and content specific role where I feel I “know” what I am doing. Though I always wanted to feel passionate 100% of the time, I appreciate that there will be times in any job where I will feel vague. I understand that this helps to define the certainties for each of us personally: what we care about, what draws those raw feelings of excitement, love, joy, anger, pain etc.

With all this in mind, I have successfully written a vague article about vagueness. So I must drive the point home: if you feel vague it’s time to pinpoint the things you waste energy on deliberating. Instead find the dots of personal certainty in your life and focus focus there.

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