Make Your Own Window

Starting with Much Madness is Divinest Sense by Emily Dickenson:

Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
’Tis the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur, — you’re straightaway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.

I recently learned of the term “Overton Window,” which is a concept that totally made sense as I was reading about it. In brief, it’s the “socially acceptable” range of discourse allowed. Topics outside the Overton Window often cause discomfort to folks who are used to whatever is in the Overton Window.

The Overton Window describes an existing reality; it does not limit that reality. It is descriptive, not proscriptive. Like a black hole’s event horizon, if that helps (if you know, you know).

In some discussions, I’ve read of the Overton Window being used as some sort of proscriptive limit, in the sense of “The Overton Window has been [inappropriately] skewed to the [bad direction]” and this alone was reason to yank it “back.”

But that’s not the case — it’s descriptive.

Which means that it can be changed. With relative ease, in fact. All it takes is repetition, most of the time. And a little bit of programming.

“Programming?” one might ask.

If one is programmed to think that the Overton Window is proscriptive instead of descriptive, then one more easily believes that things outside the Overton Window are not acceptable at all. In fact, much like a “zombie defender,” one can be programmed to actively and aggressively reject things outside the Overton Window. To make things even worse, part of the programming includes a built-in custom definition of “Overton Window”. At this point, reality has essentially left the building in a flurry of (typically) someone making a ton of money.

Fighting this is a tricky thing because right now, human beings are still as mentally malleable as they always have been, and because of this, they are very vulnerable to technological attacks. Never before in the history of history has it been possible to program 100,000 people in a single night (or gradually over a course of many nights, and via “zombie defenders”).

It’s not impossible, though.

Because the Overton Window is descriptive.

This might seem as if it’s a variation of “manifest the life you want” and sure, there’s a flavor of that in here. From a personal perspective, do what can be done to create a life you want. But more importantly, connect and share with others the same vision. Repeat it, over and over. Over and over. Over and over. Keep a compass needle always pointed in that direction. To allude to a tale by Neil Gaiman, this is the dream of a thousand cats.

That becomes your own personal Overton Window. And if shared, then it becomes a little bit stronger, a little bit sturdier, a little bit more consistent.

There will still be “zombie defenders” of private cash-grabby version of an Overton Window, but then, there are also folks who think the Earth is flat. Don’t let them restrict spaceflight. The more you repeat and share, the more these folks might squeal, but ultimately, they’ll come out looking like cookie elves — except in a very bad way.

Truth can be hard and complicated (and possibly seem like madness, according to Emily Dickenson), but it’s better than someone programming it away.

Ending with a reminder: The Wayfarer by Stephan Crane

The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
“Ha,” he said,
“I see that no one has passed here
In a long time.”
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
“Well,” he mumbled at last,
“Doubtless there are other roads.”