To Understand the Intangibles You Have to Understand "Butterfly-ness"

Imagine two pictures of butterflies.   The first one shows a butterfly that has been netted, euthanized (which presumably involved a bottle of chloroform and a very small handkerchief), pressed, pinned, matted, and framed.  The second shows a butterfly in its natural habitat, alighted on a flower in a meadow.

That first picture provides very useful information about the butterfly: its length, width, color, signature wing patterns and so on—its tangible aspects.

But while the second picture isn’t as clear about length/width-type attributes, it does a much better job of capturing what, for lack of a better term, might be called the creature’s butterfly-ness...a butterfly’s “gossamer essence,” if you will.

The fact of the matter is that neither of the pictures is a butterfly.  What they are, instead, are representations of a butterfly.  Analogs to a butterfly.  Artifacts of a butterfly.  Proxies for a butterfly.

A similar logic applies to the intangibles with which we must deal, however reluctantly, on the job.  The instant we think about, talk about, or write about them, we are no longer truly dealing with the intangibles themselves.  We are only dealing with representations/analogs/artifacts/proxies.  The words we use are the nets and the chloroform and the pins and the mattes and the frames.  There is inevitable loss similar to what we might think of in our tangible/mechanical world as friction loss, or the attenuation of a signal over time and space, or the loss of resolution between an original image and a photocopy.

That’s the nature of dealing with the intangibles.  It may not be to our liking, but it is reality.  And the sooner that reality is accepted, the sooner one is able to be more effective at attending to the gossamer essence-y part of the job.