Thursday, May 28, 2009

Classification Exercise

Clicking on the image should make it show up in a separate window. You might wish to do that before you begin to read.

When I go off on my walks, my mind sometimes takes over and produces this and that. This chart was the consequence of a stray thought about the Hindu caste system—and my dissatisfactions with it. I began to "revise" it, and one thing led to another. Getting home I made a quick sketch, and Brigitte and I then fell to talking about it. It was an interesting discussion—especially as we thought of different kinds of occupations or callings that we hadn't as yet accounted for, nor could we find a neighboring label that might be thought to fit it. I thought that I'd reproduce the schematic as we ended with it after handing the sheet of paper back and forth for a while. It's useful as an exercise in personal reflection and orientation . To use a pie-chart as the illustration was Brigitte's idea when I began grousing about the difficulties of getting this scheme coded in using HTML. The pie chart saved me hours of useless work.

The kinds of questions we posed as we discussed this scheme were: Where did we, as individuals, spend most of our time—or, what soon developed, where did we spend our time at different times in our lives? How do these categories relate? If we take the scheme as presented—thus assuming that it represents both major groupings differentiated by (1) an end or purpose, (2) by a kind of activity, (3) by an occupational category, and (4) possibly also by a talent or inclination—are they genuinely distinguishable, thus are they a good classification or, conversely, are they too arbitrary?

Let me give an example of my reasoning, using the DO category. I've placed in it occupations and callings that require the entire person acting in an individual capacity, usually body and mind (although being a Judge or an Executive might be a weak instance). Interestingly soldiers, actors, and dancers thus come to share one of the eight great clusters. Another example is provided by TEND. Here we have all the "caring" occupations—farming, forestry, fisheries, childcare, religious pastoring, medicine, and maintenance—all the way to the final disposition of bodies after they die. Maintenance activities are put here because they are necessary in caring for or tending to people and to the environment.

Another exercise we enjoyed was discussing how some of these activities shade off into others. Thus Teaching, in THINK shades off into TEND, in that teaching is a kind of nurturing. THINK also shades off, or is nourished by, CREATE—where theories are formed or vision illuminates thought. The two categories are separate, however, by way of acknowledging what we so often observe: some people are most decisively more thinkers than creators, or the other way about. Creators often lack elements that only those called to the rigors of thought can accomplish; thinkers are often so embroiled in the intellectual that the lightning of inspiration goes unnoticed. Fortunate indeed the people whose temperament extends over the entire octet presented here....

We hope that you have some fun with this!


  1. Oh, how lovely!!
    I must ponder this one a bit. I feel as though there is a resinance here with my earlier talks today about the Internet, "content," and how these things work right now... but I must digest it all.

  2. Ah, the text is nice too. And your story of how this pie chart came about is much as I'd imagined upon seeing just the pie.

    Now, to ponder the resonance some more... yes, without a spell checker, my comments are more colorful than I intend sometimes...


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