Tag Archives: adult learning

Freeplay!

Safe at Home cartoon

April 8 Freeplayers

Ken had already split. I’m holding the camera. Opening day for some, but for me, spring training day, April 8. We’re resourceful, so we can play with whatever the gods of weekend sports grant us.

I’m about ready to drive the gear over to Forest Hills Field #8 for our first five star weather of the new season. The Freeplay Softball league is open to anybody over 13 who can put up with our veteran nonsense, declining skills, and, as you can see, partial nakedness. It’s a pick-up game. We have extra gear.

And, it remains a twenty-two year experiment in self-organizing play, started at it was by David and Alice Kolb.

9:45am every Sunday.

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Revisiting the 2×2 Matrix – Part 1.

Never Wrong Matrix

What I term a ‘four square,’ or matrix, derives in modern times from The Boston Consulting Group’s Growth-Share Matrix. I devise my own four squares and collect any others I encounter. At times the 2×2 Matrix in either its ‘cross’ or ‘four squares’ versions have done duty in my work to help depict human situations. For example, I have employed the following one and used it as the basis for a learner to reflect upon the challenge of having it both ways.

Dr Puck' s problem matrix

MDFI Matrix aka Dr. Puck’s Problem Solver

Such visual devices have come to be known as 2×2 Matrix. The essential book on the use of the 2×2 Matrix in business, The Power of the 2×2 Matrix, presents authors Alex Lowy and Phil Hood’s understanding of the tool’s value as an aid to decision making. The Power of the 2x2 Matrix They write:

2 × 2 Thinking is inherently and profoundly transcendent in nature. Two people face an identical problem differently: one sees an insurmountable problem, while the other perceives options and opportunities. Systems thinker Jamshid Gharajedaghi calls these two approaches either-or versus both-and. Confronted by tough choices, the either-or reaction is to feel trapped and obliged to pick one or the other. The both-and response draws us automatically to a new and different perspective, where it is possible to search for ways to reframe the problem or use conflicting factors in the solution.

2x2 Matrix

The Institute for Manufacturing at The University of Cambridge describes the matrix yet misses two central capabilities, the use of the 2×2 Matrix to plot values, and, the implicit relational dynamic given in the identification of what in this description is termed characteristics.

A two by two matrix is a useful tool for initial sorting of qualitative data.

The axes should be chosen so that, e.g., the data with the most desirable characteristics will fall into the upper left quadrant and the least desirable in the lower right quadrant. While groups may be unable or unwilling to assign absolute values to qualitative data, they usually find it relatively easy to come to a consensus as to which quadrant something belongs in.

Generally, the two by two matrix is a useful tool for categorising things that can be reduced to two simple variables, particularly when quantitative information is unavailable and qualitative judgements must be made.

It enables a rapid clustering (or separating) of information into four categories, which can be defined to suit the purpose of the exercise. It is particularly useful with groups as a way of visibly plotting out a common understanding or agreement of a subject.

2×2 Matrices I’ve found, from the growing collection:

Robotics Matrix

Inscrutible Robotics Matrix

Social Media and Business Qualification Matrix

Management Matrix

Unsatisfying to me, “Management Matrix”

I devised the following to depict the tension of oppositions betwixt four entangled philosophical themes.

Unity Matrix

The 2×2 Matrix is a very Batesonian device too. I haven’t beta tested a workshop during which learners build a view of their self (or what-have-you,) using the format, yet, it seems a good idea!

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Contemplation on Scale

Foam

Scale of the Universe Partition a half hour out of your striving and dig this…by far the most humbling experience the inter tubes have provided me.

14 billion years

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Predicting Iran’s Future

Iran Women & Girls

One day Rabi’a needed a piece of cloth, so she gave a man three silver coins to buy one.

After he’d already started his way, he turned back.

“My lady,” he said, “I forgot to ask: what color do you want?”

“So, it’s become a question of color, has it?” she replied.

“Give me my money!” And she threw it into the Tigris River.

Version of Rabi’a of Balkh; in Doorkeeper of the Heart, Charles Upton


The objective of this exercise is to observe the materials, then contemplate, the most negative possible answer to the following question:

What events could constitute the most horrific unintended consequences of a war between Israel/United States and Iran?.

You might as well own those thoughts yourself; as long as very few less thoughtful people want to indulge thoughts like the kind you could have. Now, of course, it is not like anyone should want to have those kinds of thoughts, but, before the arrival of the terrible bloodletting, it is a point of hope and hope against those dastardly “worse cases/any cases” that at least a self-chosen minority look into a darkened future.

The diverse materials presented here last about six hours.


Hossein Omoumi-Classical Persian Music from John Melville Bishop on Vimeo.

War on Iran? (Part 1 – Larry Everest) from PPJC Videos on Vimeo.

Iran: the danger of war, the role of sanctions and the tasks of Hopi from Communist Party of Great Britain on Vimeo.

War Fever: Iran, the Middle East and the U.S. from Media Education Foundation on Vimeo.

Fareed Zakaria intervista Zbigniew Brzezinski from U.S.N. – R.S.I. on Vimeo.

War on Iran? (Part 2 – Stephen Zunes) from PPJC Videos on Vimeo.

Moyers & Company Show 111: Moving Beyond War from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

Middle Eastern Sacred Song (Piyutim): From Pulpit to Pop Chart from Rothko Chapel on Vimeo.

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Wondering and Wandering

Meta-Cognitive Wandering This is an inscrutable picture. I like it.

The backstory for this post contains several slices. My friend, Linda Kahn, the great dancer and choreographer sent me a article, from which I’ve extracted the following.

Of course, eventually wondering must cede place to positively-intentioned action, but the more deeply we engage in the preliminary stage of ‘wondering’, the better able we are to reach the positive intention stage. And we can be positively-intentioned about wondering and letting the unconscious mind do its thing.

At its heart, the process of wondering is hypnotic, and that is why it is so powerful. This is why it’s so valuable to develop the skills of wondering alongside the more recognized skills of more obviously strategic and sequential thought. And it can make life so much more interesting! How to use the power of wondering – by Mark Tyrrell, Uncommon Knowledge

Karl Weick, one of the main thinker/wanderers in the background of my own outlook, in a different context, coined the term, ‘galumphing.’ This means to walk around and not pay so much attention that other stuff is missed. The point of Taoist walking meditation and what I term ecological, (or Batesonian,) observation differently emphasize wandering/wondering through the at-hand environment in a manner in which the observing context is subservient, or serves, the observed environment.

As a researcher and student/scholar of fortuity, random and pseudo-random social-cognitive interpersonal processes, and, chance construction, it’s simple enough to note the speculative, loosened, wondering divergent sensibility may be more efficacious in a strategic sense then intentionally convergent strategic thought.

Well, wonder about and wander around this if you wish–I know I do.


I go trawling in close to completely serendipitous ways for intriguing graphics using Google and Bing and other image search engines. One way to do this is to tack on +diagram to any other kind of search. The results are often surprising and edifying.

Dualistic-Monistic

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Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic Motivation

This cartoon gets at the essence of intrinsic motivation–when this kind of motivation is considered to be a simple phenomena, rather than a feature of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan’s deep self-determination theory.

The following earlier cartoon, lead the way to the post The Grey Area of Motivation in which I offer some intuitions about intrinsic motivation.

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The Spark of the Opposites II.

Carl Jung

How to hold the tension of the opposites?

Following from the everyday experience of conflict, or dissonance, or intense ambivalence, Carl Jung doesn’t treat experiential matters like this often. The basic reason is a little bit below the surface of this typical statement from Aion,

“Most people do not have sufficient range of consciousness to become aware of the opposites inherent in human nature. The tensions they generate remain for the most part unconscious, but can appear in dreams.”

With this statement, we’re no longer in the realm of the everyday sundry betwixt and betweens.

The core opposition in Analytic Psychcology is consciousness/unconsciousness. To ask ‘how to hold the tension of opposites’ strikes me as a modern request for a “self-helpful” instrumental technique, as against the energetic, (what for me is a libido or hydraulic,) model given in the classical version, and in Jung’s understanding, of the psyche. In this latter model, the problem is extant in an energized intrapsychic field of energy. This field is the territorial locus for the complex compression given in the intrapsychic confrontation between the known, nascent self-knowledge, and, the unknowable.

Although Dr. Jung does not use the term tension of the opposites much, and does not offer any ‘self-help’ on the ‘how,’ there are several detailed treatments scattered in his writings.

First, Two Essays In Analytic Psychology, (CW 7; 4th ed. 1966) is much about the opposites.

This example clearly shows that it does not lie in our power to transfer “disposable” energy at will to a rationally chosen ob­ject. The same is true in general of the apparently disposable energy which is disengaged when we have destroyed its unser­viceable forms through the corrosive of reductive analysis. This energy, as we have said, can at best be applied voluntarily for only a short time. But in most cases it refuses to seize hold, for any length of time, of the possibilities rationally presented to it. Psychic energy is a very fastidious thing which insists on fulfil­ment of its own conditions. However much energy may be present, we cannot make it serviceable until we have succeeded in finding the right gradient.

This question of the gradient is an eminently practical problem which crops up in most analyses. For instance, when in a favourable case the disposable energy, the so-called libido, does seize hold of a rational object, we think we have brought about the transformation through conscious exertion of the will. But in that we are deluded, because even the most strenuous exer­tions would not have sufficed had there not been present at the same time a gradient in that direction. How important the gra­dient is can be seen in cases when, despite the most desperate exertions, and despite the fact that the object chosen or the form desired impresses everybody with its reasonableness, the trans­formation still refuses to take place, and all that happens is a new repression.

It has become abundantly clear to me that life can flow forward only along the path of the gradient. But there is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites; hence it is necessary to discover the opposite to the attitude of the conscious mind. It is interesting to see how this compensation by opposites also plays its part in the historical theories of neurosis: Freud’s theory es­poused Eros, Adler’s the will to power. Logically, the opposite of love is hate, and of Eros, Phobos (fear); but psychologically it is the will to power. Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other: the man who adopts the standpoint of Eros finds his compensatory opposite in the will to power, and that of the man who puts the accent on power is Eros. Seen from the one-sided point of view of the conscious attitude, the shadow is an inferior component of the personality and is consequently repressed through intensive resistance. But the re­pressed content must be made conscious so as to produce a ten­sion of opposites, without which no forward movement is possible. The conscious mind is on top, the shadow underneath, and just as high always longs for low and hot for cold, so all consciousness, perhaps without being aware of it, seeks its un­conscious opposite, lacking which it is doomed to stagnation, congestion, and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites. (L76-78)

The tension of the opposites, in being sparked, is unbidden. In the classical view, it is not subject to the ‘how’ given by our modern self-help view. Thus, to be in the psychological problem so sparked is to be in a situation for which a fruitful appeal may be made to an analytic relationship–through which the working creatively or waiting creatively through the (variously) phantasy/symbolic/dream/actively imagined material, is the means of holding material energized in the ineluctable terms of this gradient.

The problem of opposites, as an inherent principle of hu­man nature, forms a further stage in our process of realization. As a rule it is one of the problems of maturity. The practical treatment of a patient will hardly ever begin with this problem, especially not in the case of young people. The neuroses of the young generally come from a collision between the forces of re­ality and an inadequate, infantile attitude, which from the causal point of view is characterized by an abnormal dependence on the real or imaginary parents, and from the teleological point of view by unrealizable fictions, plans, and aspirations.

Elsewhere Jung states “the opposites condition each other.” The youthful conditioning movement (or energetics, libido,) settles out the persona, distills the egoic first person, and, next may confront the repression of the Shadow.

Here the reductive methods of Freud and Adler are entirely in place. But there are many neuroses which either appear only at maturity or else deteriorate to such a degree that the patients become incapable of work. Naturally one can point out in these cases that an unusual dependence on the parents existed even in youth, and that all kinds of infantile illusions were present; but all that did not prevent them from taking up a profession, from practicing it successfully, from keeping up a marriage of sorts until that moment in riper years when the previous attitude suddenly failed. In such cases it is of little help to make them conscious of their childhood fantasies, dependence on the parents, etc., although this is a necessary part of the procedure and often has a not unfavourable result. But the real therapy only begins when the patient sees that it is no longer father and mother who are standing in his way, but himself-i.e., an unconscious part of his personality which carries on the role of father and mother. Even this realization, helpful as it is, is still negative; it simply says, “I realize that it is not father and mother who are against me, but I myself.” But who is it/in him that is against him? What is this mysterious part of his personality that hides under the father and mother-imagos, making him believe for years that the cause of his trouble must somehow have got into him from outside? This part is the counterpart of his conscious attitude, and it will leave him no peace and will continue to plague him until it has been accepted.

Acceptance.

What youth found and must find outside, the man of life’s afternoon must find within himself. Here we face new problems which often cause the doctor no light headache.

The transition from morning to afternoon means a revaluation of the earlier values. There comes the urgent need to appreciate the value of the opposite of our former ideals, to per­ceive the error in our former convictions, to recognize the un­truth in our former truth, and to feel how much antagonism and even hatred lay in what, until now, had passed for love. Not a few of those who are drawn into the conflict of opposites jettison everything that had previously seemed to them good and worth striving for; they try to live in complete opposition to their for­mer ego. Changes of profession, divorces, religious convulsions, apostasies of every description, are the symptoms of this swing over to the opposite. The snag about a radical conversion into one’s opposite is that one’s former life suffers repression and thus produces just as unbalanced a state as existed before, when the counterparts of the conscious virtues and values were still repressed and unconscious. Just as before, perhaps, neurotic dis­orders arose because the opposing fantasies were unconscious, so now other disorders arise through the repression of former idols. It is of course a fundamental mistake to imagine that when we see the non-value in a value or the untruth in a truth, the value or the truth ceases to exist. It has only become relative. Every­thing human is relative, because everything rests on an inner polarity; for everything is a phenomenon of energy. Energy nec­essarily depends on a pre-existing polarity, without which there could be no energy. There must always be high and low, hot and cold, ete., so that the equilibrating process–which is energy–can take place. Therefore the tendency to deny all previous val­ues in favour of their opposites is just as much of an exaggera­tion as the earlier one-sidedness. And in so far as it is a question of rejecting universally accepted and indubitable values, the re­sult is a fatal loss. One who acts in this way empties himself out with his values, as Nietzsche has already said. (214-215)

Acceptance and recognition, and, in that order. Again, there is not in the classic perspective any explicit ‘self-help’ advice. Holding is how, and this may mean allowing for the problem to stay, for it to be sticky and to be stuck to it. The underlying energetic circumstance demands the ego with its charge, or libido, to appropriate more than enough consciousness to enter into relation/relatedness with the charged opposite, accept, recognize, and, equilibrate at a higher key.

Because the classic and ensuing revisions of the model of the psyche of Analytic Psychology is problematic in light of modern psychology, in backing away in the direction of common situations of psychological conflict, be these the stuckedness given by conflicts of emotion, cognition, aspiration, it is easy enough for me, grounded in models of adult learning, to comprehend the similarity to how change comes about in experiential learning, where the phase of resolution describes our effectiveness in either adapting our self to the circumstance, or, altering the external circumstance to our self.

***

Numerous teaching stories, the koan, and aphorisms that drill right to the tense middle. My favorite is an aphorism of Rumi.

What is essential is not important,
what is important is not essential.

There is no way to penetrate this aphorism’s value without feeling and experiencing the tension between essential and important.

When Shams, Rumi’s mentor and beloved, was killed, for Rumi, Shams was gone only in one respect. In the working through the opposite between lover and disappeared beloved, his mature mystic outlook was evoked; love in this case growing despite the profoundly frustrating loss of the beloved’s incarnate being. (And, so Rumi’s mysticism offers a yoga of the opposites, of loss and recognition.)

My own experience is that holding the tensions is an everyday opportunity. Anytime we sacrifice our weak or strong preference, we’re “there” holding for a moment the tension of the opposites. Sometimes it can be helpful to understand what the experience is like by working back from the one-sided beginning or ending. The answer, nevertheless, is given by feeling through the experience–or at least this is my suggestion here.

Putting acceptance before recognition is a subtle insight. This means that the first move in the direction of both greater consciousness and toward distant resolution is to accept the intense frustration, and do this for the sake of being able to then accept the weak formations one may apprehend at the very start. Later, when something like clarity is born in a process of creative working/waiting through the tension of the opposites, the hint of resolution comes to become persistent enough to recognize, and, this recognition comes to comprise a foundation for a new attitude.

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The Spark of the Opposites I.

Holding the Spark of the Opposites

(First part of two; reworked from an response offered to Jung-Fire, an email discussion group mostly about Analytic Psychology and Carl Jung. These two parts are in response to the question, how do you hold the tension of the opposites?)

Your question is interesting to me because it points in the direction of a practical answer. After all, we know what it is to hold and experience tension. There are common experiences for which a person finds themselves between or betwixt two competing poles. There are also common ways to describe the genre of such situations.

For example, one wants something but can’t have it. One has a problem or challenge but doesn’t really want to meet it. One prefers an easy route and also knows the route is necessarily not easy.

What is meant by experiencing the opposites? A practical answer is rooted in the experiential, and by reflection on experience.

Holding the opposites is a common experience of being human. Yet, those experiences are mostly different than the experience implied by holding the tension of the opposites given in a situation of individuation; individuation being a conspecific of development in the framework of Analytic Psychology.

Let’s consider this first part to be concerned with the normal, common kinds of experiences.

There are many examples and the several I’ll pose address the question indirectly by implicitly asking what does the experience feel like? The “how” is an answer given by thoroughly sensing what the experience feels like.

Say, you’re driving and somebody else on the road makes an idiotic move, and you find yourself being angry. I might in fact mutter ‘you idiot!’ yet, after all, I’m driving, capable of such moves myself, and, my emotional reaction soon enough passes. There: in the middle, and this would be different from the one-sidedness of speeding up and coming next to the other driver and glaring or, umm, raising a digit in protest.

What does it feel like, for example, to estimate almost instantly, the pressures surrounding bursting through the end of the yellow light?

Another basic form of holding opposites is anytime we find our self having to do something we don’t want to do, but, going “through” our objection to then do it.

A ripe example of this is being on either the delivering or receiving end of a romantic break-up. Being on the receiving end is ripest of all because quite often the severing of attachment leaves one in the predicament–again in the middle as it were–between desiring to remain attached and, often suddenly, having this desire absolutely frustrated. This can be very concrete: wanting versus abruptly this desire no longer being able to be fulfilled.

What is this experience?

In reflecting upon what the experience of this kind of tension is, there are several basic descriptive categories. So, our report about our experience could note the experience feels like being pulled in two seemingly mutually exclusive directions. We might then be able to describe what the emotional or affective content of this experience is; we can name its features. Similarly, we can describe cognitively dissonant, or ideational, conflict. Such conflicts are inflected or otherwise weighted by energetic emotions.

Being in the middle is an energetic situation or position.

The psychological problem evoked by this being in the middle, and this middle having come upon us, constitutes resistance of some sort.

There can be resistance to fate, or denial of the actual situation. One can be in the middle–between the fate we’d prefer, and the fate we’re delivered to. The former fate in effect being the movie we’d like to sit through, the latter being the movie we can’t escape.

Asking again, what does this experience feel like? As we develop clues, and better, about this, we come to understand the various processes which take the general form: equilibrium/disruption/tensile conflict/resolution/equilibrium.

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Know Your Box

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A tweet skidded by: outside the box is just another box. The challenge moving outside “the” box is taking the same thinking with you. So: a problem of how more than a problem of where is this outside. Another way to put it is how do you know you’re outside; how did you get there; what did you bring with you, and, then a crucial move would be, how would you know you’re in a new box?

My basic “meta” approach with respect to deploying applications for the sake of activating outer moves is to disrupt the familiar or well-structured or resistance-free initial tactics; you know where the outer move is made as a matter of the learner being confident he or she knows how to get outside the/a box. And, yes, my practiced approach constitutes its own box.

Successful venturing outside the box, for me, comprises getting outside outside the box, and the quality of this venturing I’ve observed to signal some portion of discomfiture, as if visiting an unknown, even alien land.

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Never Two Be Seen – Two Coyote Stories

I.

Coyote’s wife dies of an illness and he weeps for her. He is visited by the death spirit who offers to take him to the land of the dead if Coyote will follow his instructions. Coyote agrees. On their journey the spirit points out a herd of horses. Coyote cannot see the horses but he pretends that they are there. Neither can Coyote see the death spirit. He appears to be a shadow. When Coyote and the death spirit arrive at the land of the dead the spirit invites Coyote to eat some berries. Coyote cannot see them but pretends to eat them nevertheless.

The spirit leads Coyote to a lodge and tells him to enter through the doorway and sit down beside his wife and eat the food that she has prepared for him. Coyote cannot see the lodge, the food, or his wife, but he obeys the spirit. When night falls Coyote sees the lodge that he could not see during the day, and in it are fires, and people he knew when they were living and, of course, his wife. With the dawn, everything and everyone disappears, only to return on the following evening. It is like this for several days and nights.

Eventually the death spirit tells Coyote that he must leave. The spirit allows Coyote to take his wife with him but warns that he must not touch her until they have crossed the fifth mountain of the five mountains that lie between the lands of the living and the dead. Coyote agrees. Coyote and his wife begin their journey. At night they sit with a fire between them and Coyote notices that with every night his wife’s form becomes clearer. On the last night of the journey Coyote can wait no longer and reaches across the fire to embrace his wife. She disappears the moment he touches her.

The death spirit returns and tells Coyote that because of his foolishness the practice of returning from the dead will never be and that the dead must remain forever separate from the living. The spirit leaves. Coyote tries to return to the land of the dead, repeating everything he was instructed to do on the first journey: he pretends to see a herd of horses, to eat berries, to enter a lodge, to acknowledge his wife, and to eat the food she has prepared for him. When evening comes the lodge, the fires, the people, and Coyote’s wife do not appear, and they and the death spirit never appear to Coyote again.

II.

Two Coyotes were going upriver and came to a big bench. From there they saw people living below, near the river. Then the two friends said to each other, “you go ahead.” Then one says “No. You go,” and the other said “No.” And they argued and protested for a long time. Then one said, “You go first they will see you any moment and say `there is a coyote.’” They were going on the trail. [The other said] “I am not a coyote.” [The first said,] “But you are just the way I am. We are the same in every way. We are both coyotes.” [The other said,] “No, I am just `another one.’” In this way they argued.

Then the second one said to the first, “You go first.” There was a ridge on which people could see everything from below. When he [the first] started walking, went on, and went over a small ridge, the people below said, “There is a coyote going upstream.” Then they [people] came out and watched the coyote going. “See?” he said. “See what they said? You are a coyote.” “Come! You too.” he said. “They will say the same of you. You are a coyote.” “All right. I will go” [said the other], and he also slowly started walking on the trail from there. Then [people said], “Ah, another one again. There is another one.” Then he came to the first, saying, “See? I am not a coyote. I am `another one.’ See, the people said that I am `another one.’” That’s all.

source: paraphrase by :Larry Ellis, Trickster: Shaman of the Liminal, SAIL Studies in American Indian Literatures; Series 2; Volume 5, Number 4; Winter 1993

(republished from Transformative Tools blog)

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Spring Training Is Over

Matt batting at the end of last season.

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

Matt speaking before the start of this season.

Freeplay Softball League and experiment

Sundays, 9:30am, Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights

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Stop Boxing

Ralph Waldo Emerson om experience

When I’m working playfully in my squareONE transformative learning mode, I’m always doing a version of the following experiment, here defined as its hypothesis:

Given experiential engagement of a novel process and its novel set of data, the learner will be moved to discover insights as a matter of his or her exploration within the field of this unusual process and its unique data.

There is a ‘meta’ hypothesis, surrounding this too: that such insights are not easily derived from other “non-novel” varieties of engaged learning.

My hypothesis has been proved in one-on-one work just about every time; maybe 90% of the time. In groups, where the facilitator–me–cannot apply experienced guidance evenly, the successful demonstration of the validity of the hypothesis approaches 50%. I’d estimate in groups of six or less, the success rate is around 75%.

What is being proved is that novelty is a powerful source for transformative learning. There is a third instance of novelty: the learner’s approach. I understand this to be the learner’s ability to move beyond their most naturally familiar and often habitual approach.

My guidance is fit to the challenge of gently compelling the learner’s shifting their approach to a novel one. I could go on and on about the various obstacles in the way between a learner’s familiar approach and something innovative. Likewise I could describe the facilitator’s skills!

I’ve learned a lot about what characterizes the elite learner in this kind of process. These kinds of learners combine, in different measures, the qualities of openness, playfulness, creativity, and, its clear to me such learners often have some prior experience with inhabiting a different perspective.

As well, negotiating innovative approaches can seem to be easeful where the learner possesses a deep, personal culture. The consequential effect of this is that the learner has some prior experience with, and has practiced their own flexible, (third order,) capabilities. Another way to describe these kinds of capabilities is to say the adept exploratory learner uses a practiced, diverse, repertoire able to be used to explore in novel ways a novel process and its novel data.

In my ‘soft’ theorizing, from observing such learners, it is apparent they can bring to bear on experiential learning what I term, g>a doubled-double loop learning; (the third order referenced above.) This is a style of engagement in which a third, or meta order, comes into play. Not only can the learner re-adapt their approach in the real time circumstance of the process, the learner also can navigate a variety of means for doing this, so, the adaptation found in the so-called double loop is itself subject to a further selection from an overarching ‘meta-loop,’ or, in my terms, diverse repertoire.

An example of this is when the learner uses symbolic data discovered in the novel data set to modify their approach to the data. This secondary data is used to alter their scheme in manipulating, etc., the primary data.

It is possible to point out, or cue, some of these possibilities to less practiced learners. This move goes like this: instead of suggesting ‘Have you ever looked at this other way?’ the suggestion is, “Have you ever looked at how you look, when you’re looking to look, at it another way?” But, this is would be a very unusual move for me to make. (I do not risk pulling the learner into my world, so-to-speak.)

From my perspective, the point is not to get outside the box, it’s to get outside of boxes.

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Reduced Bateson Set: III. Set Up; Actuality Matters


(I continue musings which exemplify what I’m musing about. This is the set up to my presenting a schema, the Reduced Bateson Set, I can use to interpret my experience of other person’s presentation of information. Caveat: I am entertaining here an informal perspective. My eventual goal is to connect this perspective with further musings on adult learning.)

Although it may count as one of my most abstruse attempts at communicating complex, ‘softly’ phenomenological discoveries about the exchange of knowledge between persons, between human systems of awareness, the previous post in this series nevertheless entertains several main points. Its first point was that seemingly simple systems of human action do not yield answers to simple questions. The second point was these unanswerables are apparently due to incapacities in both formal and heuristic means for deriving answers and making accurate predictions. The third point was that in a discussion among persons who bring into the discussion differing perspectives and approaches, this discussion productively can happen irrespective of pertinent differences found or implicit in individual perspectives and/or approaches.

Here’s a mundane example. Your car needs a repair. You take it to the mechanic and discuss its ill symptoms. The mechanic sketches some possible causes. You don’t know much about how cars work. The mechanic does know how cars work. Yet, you have a discussion about what’s possibly wrong with your car. In this example, you and the mechanic share the assumption you the car owner do not need to know how a car works, as a condition for having the discussion. However, if you say to yourself, “I really don’t know what he’s talking about since I don’t know how a car works,” then it would be the case that you hold a different assumption. In fact, this different assumption could prove to be decisive. Still, you and the mechanic can have a discussion.

I’m not qualifying, in setting out this example, whether this kind of a discussion is a good or bad kind of discussion. The suggestion is: these kinds of discussions are common.

Another example. A friend once shared a description of their spirituality. The key element of the description was their belief in a single God. I asked my friend if he understood this God to be the God of All. We clarified that I was asking whether this singular God could be defined as being behind or above ‘everything’. He put it that his definition of God could be reduced to a complex proposition:

“God is first, God is last, God is in relation to all phenomena.”

I asked my friend,

“Then your God is also the God the other Abrahamic faiths believe in?”

He had never pondered this. We talked it over, with me suggesting the following implication of the proposition.

“If there is a God of All, then this God is also in relation to those who do not believe in this God.”

On one hand, in this example I’m striving to understand a very fundamental feature of his proposition, while, on the other hand, there’s no reason we could not have discussed his spirituality without attending to the proposition in this particular way. I don’t have to know how his God works to engage in a discussion about his God.

Another example. If I remember correctly, Ludwig Wittgenstein sharply criticizes the method of Freudian analysis by pointing out that the psychoanalyst chooses the element in the analysand’s chain of association that is of psychoanalytic, and potentially curative, interest. Well, by what right understanding of how the psyche works is this a fruitful intervention? The analysand, in this example, is taking symptoms to a different kind of mechanic.

In the same vein, I can discuss Jung’s analytic psychology without entering into this discussion the very basic assumption that holds that there is no substantial empirical evidence able to demonstrate the implicit understanding that each and every human psyche in actuality reflects the structural model given by Analytic Psychology. On one hand, this is a big problem at the level of foundational assumptions, on the other hand it doesn’t have to subvert a fruitful discussion.

I’m sensitive to foundational assumptions. Often hidden, nonetheless these basic assumptions are related to the content of most common kinds of discussions. (‘Discussion’ here is used also as shorthand for many other kinds of communicative acts.) It was fascinating in 2008 as the financial crisis unfolded to read and discuss what different people thought were its causes. That discussants had no substantial idea about how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are actually operationalized in the system of finance does not prevent peoples’ productive discussion about possible causes.

For example, at times in my work life I’ve been told what a marketing plan is to be. I often choose to overlook the plan’s mistaken (to me) assumptions about what are the facts (of mechanics, or operations, or contingencies in the market,) so I can proceed to my role in the plan. The plan doesn’t really make sense, yet this does not prevent discussing it. This doesn’t mean my view is correct. This only means I believe it to be correct given unexamined, or presumptive, or, missing, or, poorly formed, assumptions, suppositions, assertions of factitude, etc..

Obviously, the following point is not profound. Discussions may implicate assumptions which could be part of the discussion, but are not brought into the discussion. Some assumptions could disrupt the discussion, yet these same assumptions are not entertained in the discussion.

Discussions, etc., have consequences. The auto mechanic goes fishing. The inept marketing plan unfolds. Deadly force is unleashed on Iraq even though the assumption that there are WMD is mistaken. The rationales for the Iraq war constitute a series of mistaken assumptions which yielded mountains of productive discussion, even given that assumptions implicit within these discussion were abject.

The Reduced Bateson Set provides, among its six factors, a factor for analysis of whether or not a presentation of knowledge or understanding both depends on, and is informed by, an accurate estimation of what is actually materially, (or positively,) true as a matter of spoken or unspoken knowledge or understanding.

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Brief, Not Very Olsonian Reflections: The Prize

On Saturday I was chosen to cap a conference, Soul In Buffalo; A three-day free conference aimed to celebrate and explore Charles Olson’s legacy and extension through A Curriculum of the Soul.

This honored closing position expressed a counter-intuitive programming choice, because I am not an Olsonian. Yet, obviously, since I wasn’t going to weigh in at the end with poetry, poetics, research, or scholarly fireworks, I was, nevertheless, given the opportunity to bring some other set of capabilities to bear on the proceedings.

What I could do and what I did sort of manage to do is bring the conference to a close on wings of experience and play and collaborative grappling with a very simple creative problem. Taking this creative problem first, I asked the group to participate in a squareONE tool, Hunting and Gathering, and use it to bring several explicit things into greater focus, and, as well, bring whatever the process might evoke into their collaborative field of experiential play and creativity.

The more conceptual group playing with the Gods

I will tender the explicit things momentarily. What might of happened references what is my usual way of facilitating Hunting and Gathering. This usually happens within a slice of time able to support my gentle guidance of an experiential process to its important goals. Those goals exist on a continuum stretched on one end between learning with enough gravity to support testing or further experimentation, and, on the other end, learning which is galvanizing to the point of an a-ha.

Yet, this time out the time slice ended up being compressed to about an hour. As Idries Shah once put it, “time takes time.” So, with this lessened time I quickly had to make a few strategic decisions. This has happened on a few occasions in the past, but I have never intentionally turned a finely tuned process into a grand experiment–as I ended up doing on Saturday.

I framed, (or ‘primed,’) the group’s experience by introducing several factors, in the form of musings. I told the group I wasn’t an Olsonian, but had come to this conference by virtue of remarkable serendipities having to do with encounters with friends-who-were Olsonians. Then I very briefly pointed out that soul might have something to do with creating together via relationships, and using as its raw stuff the discoveries found in exploration. I hoped the experience I was offering would drive some into the experience of soul in real-time. And, my personalization brought up what seem to me an essential feature of soulful working together: its human contingencies are fragile, and yet, are loving too.

(I recognize here my prejudice too: deep soul is very human, rather than very esoteric!)

The sharpest suggestion I made was this: whatever learning comes to happen may be referenced in his or her reflection on a personal intention I had them generate. However, in my strategic alteration of the process I understood going in to it, I would never learn anything about their learning.

The love network group working and playing.

What unfolded was pretty damn amazing, even by my experienced standards. I do not debrief my work for all the world to read and see, but it is enough to tell of a quickening vibration that rose like heat waves off a desert.

The Prize.

I had split the group into two sections and both worked on their collaborative graphic. The differentiation of approach, as I felt it and as I mused over the ‘consequence of approach,’ was very telling about challenges not much spoken of in the two days of stunning contributions I witnessed. The general challenge is about how various bodies of work come to persist, be sustained, grow, and, in the soulful turn, come to have positive effects on the growth of consciousness as this is individually rendered in the alchemical cooker of devoted, unsparing, deeply humanized, relationship.

oiled snake
psychedelic reverb
straight no chaser

spot your choices

still have to live
alive among
each other

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Snowy Daze

Free Play Team Oct 31

Mellowing after wild ending

A pic taken after our October 31, Free Play Softball League game. It was quite a game, another one run affair, and capped off by a game winning hit that fell in a grey area. What’s a grey area on a softball field. Well, it’s about three feet to the foul side of a foul line marker (1), but also in the fair territory as defined by a straight line drawn through the points of home plate and third base. I was the left fielder who deferred from making a total heroic effort on a catch-able ball. I couldn’t believe what happened and trotted in and was obnoxious for a brief moment. Yet, as the winning team’s wave of positive affect rolled over me, I submitted to the Free Play game’s Hermes.

Kurt

The next week, on November 7, was another unique, and, one run game, ended by a monster base-clearing strike by Kurt. Here he is putting bats away.

Because I usually am holding the camera, I’m not in most team shots. Frances, thinking of my fragile ego no doubt, asked for the camera, took this shot, and told me to put a caption to it. Which I have.

Let me explain: at 10:05, five minutes after the game usually starts, my cell phone rings. I’m absorbed twiddling knobs in the studio and begin to ignore it, when, suddenly I realize something.

taken about 100 yards from launch pad, same day as above photo

It may be snowy eight miles south of Forest Hills Park, but, kid, your mates have arrived at the non-snowy field ready to play, while you’re sitting at home with your car–full of the entire inventory of essential equipment–sitting in your driveway.

(1) One perk to riding the equipment camel is I sometimes get to layout the foul markers.

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Two Batesonian Teaching Cartoons

Okay. I mentioned I had this darn insight many years ago: something like a Batesonian metalogue–which are sprinkled throughout his books–seems to be discoverable in the deep structure of particular Sufi teaching stories. This old insight has evolved and this is due mostly to my original apercu not really being the actual case.

I would put it differently now. There is in this kind of story a hidden potential for shifting one’s “base” way of experiencing their being-in-the-world. (This is but one way of putting the experiential ‘trap door’ contained in such stories.) Whereas, Bateson never specified a comprehensive set of applications which could be said–had these been specified–to be implicate in his research and articulation of his understanding. He never, as-it-were, surfaced those kinds of robust edifying activities.

To hold these two different aspects from two different ‘realizations,’ together, nevertheless, reveals similar practical objectives. One simple way to suggest this is to bring in the metaphor of peeling the onion. Certainly this does fine duty with respect to the technology given by the Sufi teaching story. After all, the teaching story is surely a technology for peeling the onion. On the side of Bateson, similarly, but less tried and tested, there is an implicate technology focused on supporting a deep, counter-habitual, and no less subversive ‘environmentally-experiential’ learning.

Now I’m reviewing my archive of teaching cartoons to see which ones elicit these similar aspects.

Stephen Nachmaninovitch’s seminar was terrific. I’m not going to talk too much out of school, except to make a couple of observations. Later, I’ll highlight Stephen’s resources.

He brought Bateson into his mostly experiential presentation in very subtle ways. He insinuated a handful of ideas by softly integrating each into the composition of his program. From my perspective, it seemed he was ‘making ground’ for negative capability. I suppose I’m sensitive to this, so it was striking. Those of course are just my terms.

Among the bright Ph.D. candidates in the room, many seemed to find their way in a situation aiming to be expansive rather than one aimed to feather their (likely) laser-directed professional aspirations!

This leads to my other observation. There is, in the context of the professional academy, a very ripe circumstance for this kind of instigation. There were many moments during the seminar when I was chuckling inside because so many ‘givens’ were coming under a lot of pressure–except this was entirely by deep and indirect implication. This seemed almost tacit, yet obvious too.

And, at the same time, Nachmanovitch was very selective. He interjected Bateson’s sense about the problem with nouns-with reification-with flattening, but didn’t then highlight this applies to ideas as well as people, places, and things. All he said was that this applies to people, places, things, and ideas. It seemed he was seeding a handful of experiences and frames and allied concepts. Briefly, at the end, he wrapped this all up in a mildly didactic closing.

It was masterful for what he didn’t say; for what he left to ‘roam on its own;’ and, for trusting his students to discover what they will. As Bateson would have it: he didn’t close off possibilities.

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Minding the Mind

My favorite (Gregory) Batesonian teaching story, reconfigured and originally via Idries Shah.

A frenchman is teaching another french rudimentary english.

“So, the word for froid crème glacée is ‘cold ice cream.’ “

“What’s the word for chaude crème glacée?”

“Oh, they have no need for it, so there’s no word for it.”

Although I have an acute memory, I can’t recall which friend of mine did me the favor of bringing the work of Gregory Bateson to my attention. It was a long time ago. (Maybe it was Chris Irion? Pilcher?) I dug into Bateson’s Mind and Nature thirty years ago, when it was published. In another sense, it only matters as a fuzzy starting point. It was definitely in 1996 that I returned to his opus in a re-doubled effort to make some further connections. This was due to meeting my mentor and squareONE partner Judith Buerkel in 1995. During this first meeting it turned out Bateson was our mutual touchstone. Bingo!

It was only then, after a more mature effort to really deal-in, that Bateson’s understanding came to deeply inform my outlook, and to comprise a large facet in my favorite lens. The interesting nexus for this was a weird insight evoked by my trying to make coherent the weaving together of three things, the Sufi teaching story, my new (at the time) fascination with others’ theorizing about experiential learning (this via Mezirow and Kolb,) and, my revisiting Bateson (via his last book, Where Angels Fear. Toward An Epistemology of the Sacred.) About this last visitation, the bookmark stuck a third of the way through the book–when I picked it up again–marked where I had left off nine years earlier.

Judith basically told me to woodshed! Ultimately, we grappled with how to underpin our applications–what was to become the tool kit for squareONE. We spend a lot of time discussing the practical import for our work of our different Batesonian outlooks. We both thought Bateson was an adept designer; (although this is a novel sense about Bateson, who overtly was an anthropologist, psychologist, philosopher, and naturalist.)

Anyway, my insight at the time, excitedly delivered at our weekly meeting at Arabica, was this: it was apparent to me that something like Batesonian metalogues were embedded, even secreted in the structural folds of many Middle Eastern teaching stories. Judith responded: “They’re folded in everything.”

I’ve been revisiting Bateson once again over the last month. This, however, comes long after I added my experience and understanding of his understanding, (well, some of it,) to be, basically, the fundamental facet of my favored lens. By which I mean: some synergy of dynamic ideas-in-interplay make up the essential background frame for my intentional observations. Funny how lens and frame come together!

I use a ‘reduced set’ roughly taken from Bateson. Perhaps it would better to say appropriated from Bateson. I’m not a Batesonian because I’m eclectic, disorganized, not masterly, and, an ol’ hippie. Yet, in another sense, I often turn the world around to experience its different sides using my idiosyncratic (sort of) Batesonian lens.

If I assert that I’m dedicated to being a student of my environment, then in the background of this claim is this lens. You should know this to know where I’m coming from. I’ll have more to say about this soon.

I’ve recently had reason to woodshed some more and revisit the work of Gregory Bateson. I was invited to participate in a seminar at the local grad school. Stephen Nachmanovitch, author of the terrific book Free Play, musician, and student, friend, colleague of Gregory Bateson, is to give a lecture on something to do with experiential learning and play.

Getting back to one of my main people has been fantastic. The Explorations Blog is going to go on a Bateson trip for a spell. Stay tuned. I’ll wrap with a review of resources I’ve discovered out in the shed.

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Hammer Time


Pete the hammer.

New gear, celebrating next year’s 20th anniversary of Free Play softball.


The Free Play Softball League convenes its open system every Sunday at 10am, at Forest Hills Park-Cleveland Heights, on field #8. If you need to loosen up, or take a few batting practice swings, 9:45am is a good time to show up.

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Rolling In

The Free Play Softball League gang. I took this picture right after our game last Sunday. It turned out to be a beautiful day, a well-played and close game. We obtained the modest goals of our 24 year-old tradition.

If you’re over 11 years of age and have a responsible adult along with you, you can play. If you’re a bit older, you can play. You can play if it’s the first time you ever held a bat in your hand. In this photo the range of ages describes a continuum of around 55 years. Hey, but several of our most grizzled players didn’t show up!

As I suggested to Dave Kolb, one of the founders of the game (and concept!) after the game, in reflecting upon how there were but four players at the field ten minutes before the 10am, yet, by 10:30 a full complement had rolled in,

Well, it’s an open system and that’s why it works out.

Dave and me both know this term, Open System, is the model of Harrison Owen.

Open Space Technology requires very few advance elements. There must be a clear and compelling theme, an interested and committed group, time and a place, and a leader. Detailed advance agendas, plans, and materials are not only un-needed, they are usually counterproductive.

The group must be interested and committed. Failing that, Open Space Technology will not work. The key ingredients for deep creative learning are real freedom and real responsibility. Freedom allows for exploration and experimentation, while responsibility insures that both will be pursued with rigor. Interest and commitment are the prerequisites for the responsible use of freedom. There is no way that we know of to force people to be interested and committed. That must be a precondition.

The leadership of an Open Space event is at once absurdly simple and very tricky. The simplicity derives from the fact that the group itself will, and must, generate its own leadership. The tricky part comes in letting that happen. The demands placed upon the initial group leader are therefore limited and critical. Dealing with the limited aspects of group leadership is easiest and may therefore be done first. The functions here are to set time, place, and theme.

The function of leadership is to provide a focal point for direction, and not to mandate and control a minute-by-minute plan of action. The details must be left to the troops, which means amongst other things, the troops must be trusted. In no case can any leader possibly solve all problems or direct all actions.

There are Four Principles and One Law which serve as guides to the leader and all participants. The principles are: Whoever comes is the right people. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. Whenever it starts is the right time. When it is over, it is over.
[excerpts] Source: Brief User’s Guide to Open Space Technology

Our softball group obtains some of these features, but, then, Owens’s model is not geared to folding in competitive goals at all. So, our game approximates the value set of openness at the same time it integrates a variety of individualized values, some of which are in alignment with the closed system provided for by the implicit structure of a ‘sporting’ contest. Yet, what I will term ludic meta-values trump the seeming disjunction between the zero-sum of winning/losing, with, openness to “just showing up” and “just playing.”

One set of problems I’ve been making notes about, as a student of our game, concerns the distribution of equity. This has dovetailed with my reflections about my own role as a leader-the-game-has-evoked. As an agent of aspects of this distribution, (for example by making out the ad hoc lineups each week,) my intentionality with respect to the structure of each week’s game departs from the role specified by Owen. In noting this, I have also come to comprehend how those ludic meta-values are concretely mediated as a matter of the collaborative learning about the sense of the game.

This doesn’t mean the learning constitutes a normative principle, nor does it mean there is any particular procedure for this kind of collaboration, nor does it mean every player would identify its constructive factor. This does mean, as far as my current comprehension goes, that this sense of the game is robust, and is funded by experience of the collective implementation of the game’s generous system. In other words, what the players collaborate on is, in effect, throwing together an Open System every Sunday at or around 10am. From this is derived the multiple, not singular, sense of the game. And this happens non-explicitly, and, to large degree, as a fact of the constructive subconscious; (my term.)


The Free Play Softball League convenes its open system every Sunday at 10am, at Forest Hills Park-Cleveland Heights, on field #8. If you need to loosen up, or take a few batting practice swings, 9:45am is a good time to show up. But, it doesn’t matter, because you roll in anytime before we stop play at noon. See you there!

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More Matrices

[An archival post carried over from the defunct Transformative Tools blog] If this looks like a version of the medicine wheel, know the medicine wheel expresses the archetectonic fundamental; is the archetypal template for the matrical model and heuristic learning process. This tool was profoundly influenced by the work of Little Bear and Hummux, their investigation following the work of the great process theorist, Arthur S. Young. The matrical form is encountered as descendent of the sacred hoop in Young’s book, The Geometry of Meaning.)Another way to look at it is to think of the simple “four square” matrix, (well known as the Johari Window,) as another kind of depiction. Going farther, these kinds of matrices also formulate compasses and mandalas.The learning principle is straightforward: plotting positions on the form articulates a positions with respect to the arrangement of opposed categories. In turn, each categorical pair expresses a dichotomy or pair of opposites. Any position or relationship between two or more positions encompasses a critical tension betwixt and between these dichotomies. The result is a way of plotting and learning about the tension of opposites. Obviously, this process is explicitly dialectical.

Here’s a simple example:

It could address an inquiry based on the question, If happy or sad, how sensitive is this mood to being changed?

Here’s a richer matrix upon which is set two pairs from Baxter’s Relational Dialectics. It’s more abstract yet it could yield a lot of data in response to a concrete and practical question.

I’ve most often intuited a set of two dichotomies in response to the process I’m engaging with learners. There’s no normative aspect to setting up a given matrix. In effect, they can be conjured as a matter of feeling what the critical tensions in a situation seem to be. Alternately, by drawing two cards from the deck of opposites, (another tool,) the matrix can be randomized. Here’s the result of drawing two cards right now:

Hmmm…good draw. Any matrix given through any procedure is employed against the, hopefully, already critical inquisitive intention of the learner.

As a learner, you can put together, ad hoc, your own 4 square matrix.

Here’s an example of a political self-test using this format.

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