Potato, tomato

My partner doesn’t believe that it was intentional, even to this day. We began dating when she was at university, so we texted each other a lot. I cannot remember the context, but for some reason I thought it funny to distort the common saying that indicates an unimportant distinction. I text her, “potato tomato”.

Since then, I’ve found a small amount of amusement in the deliberate alteration of common sayings and cliches. No one else, unsurprisingly, finds it that funny. But that’s okay—everyone has their own collection of novel behaviours that they deploy to keep life interesting.

You probably know the idiom I’m referring to, the one I deliberately changed. I suspect you’ve also heard the phrase, “flip the script”. I heard it recently, at a time when I was toying around with the idea of a “refactoring kit”—a suite of tools whose purpose is to reframe reality in bizarre ways in pursuit of insight and interestingness. The concept of “refactoring” is, essentially, like flipping the script. And it didn’t take long for me to realise that what I was actually trying to do was “script the flip”.

Of course, the assembling of my “refactoring kit” is in the early stages. I have the toolbox where the instruments will reside—my brain. The aim is now to collect the tools, and what better way to start than with the most basic ones in existence. What follows is the hammer of my refactoring kit.

In “That’s Interesting”, Murray Davis puts forward a hypothesis of interestingness.

“In brief, an interesting proposition was always the negation of an accepted one. All of the interesting propositions I examined were easily translatable into the form: ‘What seems to be (i)X is in reality non-X‘, or ‘What is accepted as X is actually non-X‘.”

Davis goes into further detail by listing a few more precise manifestations of “X is actually non-X”. For example:

– That which is stable and unchanging is really unstable and changing (or the reverse).
– That which is an effective function is really an ineffective function (or the reverse).
– What seems to be good is actually bad, or the reverse.
– What seems to be able to exist together actually can

I picture this undermining of an assumption ground as an upside-down pyramid. The few blocks at the base represent our fundamental assumptions, either about ourselves or the world we live in. Atop of these few, big blocks are many more smaller ones. That which we find interesting is the obliteration of one of the pyramid’s blocks. Further, the closer to the base the assumption block we undermine is, the more “interesting” it is to us.

This is why I nominate the undermining of an assumption ground as a hammer—with a big enough whack it can bring the entire edifice of our life crashing down, resulting initially in destruction, but later in a more robust rebuild.