The Gnōmic: Knowing The Pattern

Welcome to The Gnōmic, the midweek read from Sunday Letters.

  
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A Thought

The English Grand National was on last Saturday and I usually have a punt on a rank outsider. I’m not otherwise into betting, but the Grand National is a bit of a spectacle so it’s fun to have a stake with the rest of the family. Although my wife holds an entirely counter view, you could take the entire horse racing industry and send it to the moon for all I really care.

Pundits talk about odds, and it’s supposed to be an accurate assessment of the horse’s chance of winning, but it’s really “just” the bookies’ opinion. Sure, there is the matter of recent form, the trainer’s expertise, and the skill of the jockey, but bookies sometimes get it wrong. They just need to get it right more often than not and they win. And bookies always win over the long run, just like the house always wins in Vegas, otherwise, they wouldn’t be there.

So when they talk about odds, what they’re really talking about is the pattern. They are up close to the phenomenon and they are familiar with how the pattern plays out. As such, they know how prominent aspects replicate over time. They can’t know the entire pattern, no more than the rest of us can, but they are so close to it, so attentive to it, that they see more than the rest of us. There are aspects they cannot see, and there are aspects that don’t grab their attention for very long because they don’t replicate as often as others. And it is here that our winning of the bet lies.

Now, if you spend the necessary time becoming familiar with the pattern, the bet is not a bet; it’s a measured, scientific assessment that occurs almost below the line of sight. It’s what we call intuition and this is so with all areas of life. If we don’t take the time to immerse ourselves in it, then the bet is just a bet. It lacks intuition, and the pursuit of the win becomes hoping and wishing. In extreme cases, it becomes almost pathological. As it is with all addictions, it is the seeking of the self in external stimulation when what we really want is the feeling that comes from already being there.

As such, the only way to get it is to not chase it. You could say it’s there already, the winning of it I mean, and we don’t know that. We go after it in all kinds of places where it’s not.


A Quote

“Casting themselves as good actors, corporations cajole governments to free them from regulations designed to protect public interests and citizens’ wellbeing, claiming they can be trusted to regulate themselves. They take over public services like schools, water systems, and social service provision saying they will run them better and more efficiently than governments, and they push for tax cuts with promises of job and other social benefits. The result? Governments retreat from governing, corporations take greater control…”

Joel Bakan, Professor of Law at the University of British Columbia


A Book

Two books for you this week. The first is The Corporation by the above mentioned Joel Bakan. The second, The New Corporation, is also his. As you might have guessed, the second is a sequel to the 2004 release and revisits his earlier finding that a corporation, being as it is a legal entity with the same rights as you and I, is pathological. Both books come with documentaries and you can watch the first one here. The second is on-demand and I haven’t found a screening for myself yet. If you’re not already cynical about the role corporations play in the conditions under which we live and the health of the planet, you will be after reading these books. Once you know you can’t unknow. So get ready for a healthy dose of reality. Books available here.


An Album

The old grey Sony radio from the late 70s was always on at home growing up. It came back to Dublin with us from the Middle East and sat on the counter providing the backdrop to my youth. Phyllis always had it on, so as it comes to mind, it comes with her. If I remember right, I once blew the shit out of it attempting to cut through the black flex with a bread knife while it was still plugged in. Not sure what I was trying to do, but I survived. The bread knife and the radio didn’t. Neither did she.

We had a turntable with a cassette deck that lived in the corner of the front room but it was hardly ever used. It was the kitchen radio that played the soundtrack to all those events I remember. Unremarkable events like coming in the door from school on a winter’s evening and The Petshop Boys, West End Girls playing in the background. Her peeling spuds and getting the dinner on, and Barry Lang giving it loads on Radio 2. Always good memories, never bad.

So music means a lot to me, and sometimes a tune comes along and it grabs me like nothing else. This week, I want to share some new music with you. Two Irish artists came together during the lockdown and created something I think is special. Mick Flannery & Susan O’Neill, take it away…


From The Archive

I publish a few bits and pieces on Medium once or twice a week. This one is recent and short. Here’s an extract;

Building a house or making a table is real. Making something with your hands is real. Talking with another human being and understanding their experience is real. Saving someone’s life is real. Marketing is not real — it’s an elaborate abstract game of hide-and-seek, of determining how much lies ordinary people are willing to swallow then producing it ad nauseam until they buy shit they never really wanted in the first place let alone needed.

The Perversion of Work Ethic


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