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Seeing Seasons Through The Overton Window


Seasons come and go as we all know, but what makes them seasons? What constitutes a season? It seems to me that the emotion that is stronger than the rest (which I see generally accepted as a barometer of sorts) seems to change from day to day, at times, week to week.  Yet I hear myself identify a season I am in, even though the previous week or day, I was feeling something completely different. As I mentally pursue the answer, something reminds me of something Blaise Pascal wrote in his work, Pensees:

“The reason acts slowly, with so many examinations and on so many principles, which must be always present, that at every hour it falls asleep, or wanders, through want of having all its principles present. Feeling does not act thus; it acts in a moment, and is always ready to act. We must then put our faith in feeling; otherwise it will be always vacillating.”

Now my mind, with its reasoning tears after the meaning of this quote armed with its many principles. The first thought is that feelings vacillate, thus making it absurd to claim that putting one’s faith in it will keep it steady. However I don’t think that’s what Pascal was going for when he wrote that. In the preceding paragraph he is presenting his observation that humans believe many things out of custom.

For we must not misunderstand ourselves; we are as much automatic as intellectual; and hence it comes that the instrument by which conviction is attained is not demonstrated alone…Custom is the source of our strongest and most believed proofs. It bends the automaton, which persuades the mind without its thinking about the matter… Both our parts must be made to believe, the mind by reasons which it is sufficient to have seen once in a lifetime, and the automaton by custom, and by not allowing it to incline to the contrary.

To believe something, it must be accepted in to the boundaries of what is customary to you before your mind ever considers it.  It also reminds me of something called the Overton window. Now don’t leave me just yet; I’m not about to quote Glenn Beck. The Overton window is a political theory that the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (a nonpartisan research and educational institute in Michigan) explains this way:

Imagine, if you will, a yardstick standing on end. On either end are the extreme policy actions for any political issue. Between the ends lie all gradations of policy from one extreme to the other. The yardstick represents the full political spectrum for a particular issue. The essence of the Overton window is that only a portion of this policy spectrum is within the realm of the politically possible at any time. Regardless of how vigorously a think tank or other group may campaign, only policy initiatives within this window of the politically possible will meet with success. (http://www.mackinac.org/article.aspx?ID=7504)

I know it may seem far off topic, but I invite you to stay with me. I think that Pascal and Joe Overton (the man that developed the theory) are saying the same thing. If something is presented to you as a truth, it cannot be outside of your customs (or comfort zone), or it will hit the wall beside your non-political Overton window and slide to the proverbial floor where it will remain.

If the above did not make sense to you, please leave a comment saying so, and I will try to explain it better in a future post.

Back to my original question: what makes a season? I think that everyone’s seasons have different characteristics in reference to length and depth. I also believe that it is very difficult to truly discern what kind of season you are in until you’ve been in it for an extended period of time. The daily or weekly fluctuations in your prevalent emotions are not changes of seasons every time. Sometimes, but certainly not all the time. Seasons of life are not easily predicted as are natural seasons, rather, they are “post-dicted”, or identified after the fact. Put that through your non-political Overton window.

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