Engaging with the Inexplicable, the Incomprehensible and the Unexpected


Anthony Judge – TRANSCEND Media Service

In celebration of the United Nations International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures and the International Year of Biodiversity.


Many experiences are now readily labelled “inexplicable” or “incomprehensible”, whether in personal life or in relations between groups and nations. Such a label, perhaps associated with a sense of “injustice”, is notably used in the case of accidents, natural disasters, and extreme violence — perhaps to be also labelled as both “tragic” and “traumatic”, given the degree of suffering typically associated with such occurrences.

Every effort is of course made to provide “explanations” and to render the experience “comprehensible”. Science and religion continue to compete in providing such frameworks — notably with reference to statistical probability and to “Acts of God” (Acts of God vs Acts of al-Qaida, 2005). The legal provisions of the insurance industry provide a degree of reconciliation between these. Some may have recourse to philosophy. All such efforts are typically unsatisfactory for those affected.

As a continuing challenge for the individual at least, the following is an exploration of possibilities of engaging with phenomena — anomalies that are not adequately foreseen by conventional frameworks. These are also typically “unexpected” as explored by Karen A. Cerulo (Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst, 2006). As with the disastrous flooding at La Faute-sur-Mer resulting from the Xynthia windstorm (2010), and failure to maintain dikes since Napoleonic times, such events are readily qualified as “unacceptable”– as by the President of France. Furthermore they may also have “unexpected” consequences, as reviewed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2007). Central to the following exploration is what might be described as the management of information and meaning — beyond the constraints of convention.



This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 Jul 2010.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Engaging with the Inexplicable, the Incomprehensible and the Unexpected, is included. Thank you.

If you enjoyed this article, please donate to TMS to join the growing list of TMS Supporters.

Share this article:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

Comments are closed.