My wonderful commentors have helped me realize that my previous sailing metaphor was a bit confusing. So this post is to clarify by illustrating the sailing principles I had in the back of my head when I wrote those posts.
I use to sail boat for several years both small boats and large team boats. Sailing is a fun challenge — I remember sitting through classes on sailing to improve my skills. And like many things, after learning about it, we forget that the knowledge is not common sense. In fact, the reason you have to discipline yourself to study sailing is that (like math, statistics and much of science) it has principles that are counter-intuitive here are two:
- A sailboat can sail against the wind
- Sailboats can actually go faster than the wind
To understand these you need a little physics but I will leave that to these youtube videos if your aren’t familiar. If you don’t understand the technical use of the word “tack” as related to sailing, please consider watching at least the first video:
OK, now that you understand the word “tack” and how a sail boat can sail into the wind using tack, let me show you some sailing metaphors which I should have offered prior to my other posts.
Let’s start with politics — far less controversial than beliefs! 😉
Tacking through the Political Seas
Instead of the hackneyed “left vs right” or “liberal vs conservative” dichotomous way of thinking about political policies I usually us at least four perspectives: (1) economic prosperity, (2) personal freedom, (3) social well-being (this includes welfare of the poor and violence issues etc) and (4) international security. And as I discussed before, much of my “thinking” is done using overlapping metaphors — especially visual models. But a 4-dimensional map to illustrate my points would not only be impossible but confusing. So for simplicity, I have made have chosen only two perspectives for a two-dimensional map: I am choosing only economic prosperity and individual freedom.
For the purpose of exploring the metaphor, consider that there is some “Perfect Harbor” where a society can have both economic prosperity AND individual freedom to the possible maximums. Again, ignore the other factors for now. And let’s say we agreed that heading to that goal is desirable. But let’s say there is a strong wind coming off the harbor at all times. So if you were navigating the pink boat, which tack would you take, tack A or tack B? Choosing tack “A” will sacrifice prosperity for freedom to begin its journey while choosing tack “B” will do the opposite. Both tacks get to the perfect harbor eventually, but the consequences will be different. And imagine that whatever path you take, you may get stuck in midcourse with the compromises that entails.
Tacking through Religious Beliefs
Now let’s return to “beliefs”. Imagine a similar scenario where there is a “Perfect Harbor” where we have not only maximized the accuracy of our beliefs, but we have also maximized their usefulness. So, to get to the Perfect Harbor, would you first sacrifice the accuracy of your beliefs or the usefulness of your beliefs. Of course you don’t always have to sacrifice accuracy for usefulness unless the wind is in your face!
Concerning the Wind
In my mind, I envision the winds to be the vagaries of our environment — always changing and always demanding us to change tack to accommodate. The winds of chance cause us to compromise our ideal directions.
Question to Readers:
(1) Which tack strategies you’d use in the examples above?
(2) Did my explanation today make my previous metaphors more clear? Please say “yes”! 😉