Sunday, November 01, 2009

Curious about Ambiguity and Being Ambiguous: Do You Make Use of It? And, How Does It Serve You, Your Life and Your Business?

Definition of Ambiguous: Doubtful or uncertain, particularly in respect to signification; capable of being understood in either of two or more possible senses; equivocal; as, an ambiguous course; an ambiguous expression.

All knowledge is ambiguous.” - J. S. Habgood, British game developer

Definition of Ambiguity: The quality or state of being ambiguous; doubtfulness or uncertainty, particularly as to the signification of language, arising from its admitting of more than one meaning; an equivocal word or expression.

The purpose of narrative is to present us with complexity and ambiguity.” - Scott Turow, American novelist

Complexity and ambiguity do go “hand in hand.” I feel that if we examine our lives and our work, especially during our current high speed existence, we will discover that our days are filled with both of them. And yet, years and years ago, Leonardo da Vinci embraced them. One of my favorite books, Michael Gelb's "How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci," includes a chapter called, "Sfumato: A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty."

You will find an excellent article about this, written by Linda Dessau, by clicking HERE

How do you feel about ambiguity? Do you make use of it? I am a storyteller, and often after I have finished telling, listeners will ask, “Was that true?” Rather than disappointing them and, I feel, hurting the story, I will answer rather ambiguously. “What do you think?” or “Every story has some truth.”

As you can imagine, the quotations for ambiguous and ambiguity also provide examples of both. Have fun thinking and chewing on them and their wisdom:

  • I was perceiving myself as good as a man or equal to a man and as powerful and I wanted to look ambiguous because I thought that was a very interesting statement to make through the media. And it certainly did cause quite a few ripples and interest and shock waves.” - Annie Lennox, Scottish musician

  • There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words.” - Thomas Reid, Scottish philosopher

  • I look for ambiguity when I'm writing because life is ambiguous.” - Keith Richards, British musician

  • Take advantage of the ambiguity in the world. Look at something and think what else it might be.” - Roger von Oech, American creativity writer

  • Journalists do not like to report on uncertainties. They would almost rather be wrong than ambiguous.” - Melvin Maddocks, British writer

  • Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity.” - Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychologist

And, two more for the road:

I think great art is always ambiguous and can't be pinned down.” - Stephen Rea, Irish actor

You know, people who almost - yeah, there's a slight reluctance there - but there's also an ambiguity. What are their morals? What is their code of living. What are they really doing here. And it is just interesting because it is never black or white.” - Matt Robinson, American actor

So, how do you feel about being ambiguous and using ambiguity? Don’t hesitate to be and use both in your responses.