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There are basically two ways to avoid being overwhelmed by the world: the turtle and the fox.

That is to say, the world is constantly exerting many forms of influence over us, and some of it might be threatening: someone trying to kill us or water contamination by heavy metals or whatever. Considering all the possible effects that the world exerts on us, the basic two options are:

  • make it go away
  • adapt

The turtle is always making it go away. That is, for every possible influence it tries to diminish the effects that such influence has on her. As an example, if you punch it the strength of the punch is absorbed by it’s carapace, and so it is diminished, from the turtle’s point of view.

The fox always tries the other option: to outsmart the influences the world imposes on you, or to trick the world. If your enemy will punch you, dodge, if it has a flamethrower go swim.

The basic strategical difference between the two is that the turtle is closed and the fox is open. That means that, for known threats, the turtle is safer and, also, needs to spend less energy defending herself — she basically doesn’t DO anything, her carapace is just there. But the carapace has a fixed limit. It will protect the turtle from X amount of force, and no more.

The fox, on the other hand, might fall for a very small amount of force, if only it is caught unaware, if it can’t find a way to trick the smallest of enemies. But she does not have a limit to her survival capabilities.

Obviously, this is a simplification. Actually it is an allegory for an idea from cybernetics, namely the rule of required complexity. Neither foxes nor turtles are as simple as stated here, they are being used as metaphors for the thermostat machine, that is, for any system that has the intention of surviving, of lasting as much as it can. Living things can be understood to comply to this rule, but obviously their strategical options for surviving are extremely more complex than that, mixing the two approaches in countless ways.

But take my father’s example. As I said recently on the blog, he has always being a bully. The bully approach is very close to the turtle: everything that you don’t know, attack. Try to reduce the influence over you for anything you don’t know. Break, threaten, mock, it doesn’t matter — attack. This works if you are always the strongest boy in the school. Or, more precisely, if no one dares to confront you.

Now, when he got old, he had to fight diabetes and he just couldn’t scare it. So, he’s broken.


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