Stuffers and Stackers

Here’s my favorite geek joke:

There are 10 kinds of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

Ok, pretty lame, but a good launching point for my similar “two kinds of people in this world…” claim. I don’t generally like making broad generalizations like that, but in this case I have yet to find another option.

There are two kinds of people in the world… Stuffers and Stackers.

Stuffers hold a worldview and try to stuff every experience and sensation into that view. They interpret all sensory input arriving at their eyes, fingertips, ears, noses and mouths in the light of their finite, literal, prescribed, worldview. Stuffers start with a conclusion and are forced to either mangle or discard evidence that contradicts that pre-conceived conclusion.

Stackers, on the other hand, build a worldview. It is cobbled together from all experiences, sensations, input, reading, etc. Each tested-and-replicated “known” is laid down as a foundation for the next layer in their structured philosophy. This worldview is open to change in the face of contradictory input. Nothing is “fact”; everything is “the best we know with the given evidence”.

The “stuffers” live in a house, built by others or inherited from relatives. Each new experience is like new furniture. They bring it home and constantly try to make everything they acquire fit into the house. Or they throw out uncomfortably large ideas so that their house remains cozy. Ultimately, all décor is measured against the house.

The “stackers” are constantly remodeling to accommodate everything they know, consistently. Stackers occasionally face an uncomfortable moment, when one of their foundational “blocks” of knowledge is proven to be inaccurate. The block must be removed. A stacker will not countenance anything but the most solid information to support her consistent worldview. However, removing a fundamental assumption often forces the Stacker to rebuild the structure. Stackers don’t like it, but they realize this is the price of living in a house that has the potential to change, because it has the potential to change, grow and improve.

The Stuffer on the other hand, to retain his place in his home, is often forced to diminish himself and squeeze into an uncomfortable corner, so all the brick-a-brack can fit. Remodeling, or expanding does not even cross the mind of a Stuffer.

Martin Luther wrote about the Book of Revelation, “. . . Finally, let everyone think of it as his own spirit gives him to think. My spirit cannot fit itself into this book.” A stacker, by this light and by the lights of the 95 theses tacked to his church door. But he was a bit schizophrenic maintaining some Stuffer-esque beliefs about God, while allowing himself this wonderful Stackerly tilt at human institutions and dogma.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a muslim Somali refugee, turned Dutch parliamentarian, turned best selling author, wrote about this conflict arising in her mind during her pursuit of a political science degree at the University of Leiden, in her 2007 autobiography “Infidel.”
“Sometimes I could almost sense a little shutter clicking shut in my brain, so that I could keep reading my textbooks without struggling to align their content with my belief in Islam.” Then, after Hirsi-Ali lists a wide variety of secular and humanist thoughts developed during the enlightenment, she writes “I read all this, and then had to try to stuff it all behind the little shutter in my brain… Sometimes the shutter wouldn’t close any more: I had stuffed too many ideas behind it.”

Slowly she morphed from being raised a stuffer, to… “Everything in the books was so beautifully put together, so rational. We learned to define, to think clearly about what we were saying, to set out our thinking in building blocks and argue with data.” … a stacker!!

Copyright (except cartoon), 2008, All Rights Reserved


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s