From Section III.2B of II.1 (“Coming to Terms with Childhood”)

We Must Unplan Our Lives

O.G. Rose
4 min readOct 16, 2023

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…If much now rides on us figuring out how to spread the conditions in which people “leave Plato’s Cave on their own,” then what this means is we must move from a socioeconomic system focused on “planning” to one which is “prepared.” This is for us to take Ivan Illich seriously, as I will discuss later on, and it is for us to become Antifragile and “intrinsically motivated.”

November 2023, Michelle and I have the pleasure of teaching a course at Parallax titled “Look at the Birds in the Air,” which orbits around a distinction between “planned” and “prepared.” The class claims we need to “unplan our lives,” which sounds strange, admittedly, but the notion is that we today are very dependent on plans and planning, and though that emphasis was perhaps acceptable for most of human history until now (2023), given the rise of Artificial Intelligence, the collapse of “givens,” the growth of complexity, Pluralism, and the like, we must begin to shift our focus to being “prepared for the unpredictable.” Again, following Hegel, this doesn’t mean we were wrong to focus on planning like we did, but that we are now reaching an end to that “historic episode” and need to “negate/sublate” it into a period where “being prepared” is more primary. We will of course still make plans and require them, but these plans will emerge out of a state of preparation versus us live as if “planning” and “preparing” are similes (as we’ve been able to do for most of history without great trouble). But things are shifting, and that shift would have us become more like Ivan Illich thought we needed to become like (which would furthermore have us align more with Rhetoric than Discourse, but more on that later).

What’s the difference between “plan” and “prepare?” To plan for something to create a “map” and “model” by which to organize our action toward it; it is predictive and able to organize our actions. For example, I might plan to go to the beach next year and buy some tickets, make some reservations, and the like — everything is “mapped out,” and I then know where I will be next year around June. It’s predictable. “Being prepared” however is where I don’t know what’s going to be happening in June, but regardless what happens I’m ready for it. If it’s hot, I’ve trained myself not to be addicted to air conditioning; if food is short, I know how to grow my own garden; if everyone around me is going through hardship, I know how to “deescalate drama” and be there as a friend. I’m prepared. Now, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with planning for a trip in July if in making plans I don’t get in a habit of using my time in a manner that makes me less prepared. This is the key: planning must never replace preparing, but there is something about planning (in being linear, predictable, and “low order”) that tends to “overreach” and infringe upon preparing (dynamic, unpredictable, and “high order”), which trains us out of being prepared. After all, why do we need to be prepared if we have everything planned out? If we plan well, nothing bad will happen…

It is natural to think of ourselves as prepared, not just dependent on plans, but basically that often just means that we “plan to be flexible” when our plans fail. To be prepared means to be able to handle the unexpected, which for Ivan Illich is more about skills and discernment, while being “flexible” often means we adjust plans. To “be prepared to change plans” is not what Illich is talking about, but this is a way by which we can hide from ourselves our lack of preparation. Furthermore, if we are “disabled by the system,” we can’t be prepared (or even really “flexible”), despite what we might think about ourselves. Preparation is deeper than flexibility, but identifying this difference is not something the system makes easy to do…



O.G. Rose

Iowa. Broken Pencil. Allegory. Write Launch. Ponder. Pidgeonholes. W&M. Poydras. Toho. ellipsis. O:JA&L. West Trade. UNO. Pushcart.