Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Harmonics of Humanity

I suspect there is an optimal frequency of vibration for most humans, and we probably unconsciously assemble the chorus of people around us by seeking to find people who vibrate at frequencies that harmonize with the others we already have in our lives. Unfortunately, sometimes what we NEED to do is ditch some of our current notes, replace them with a completely new set of chords, and assemble a new structure of harmonies around them. However, it is often difficult to see when a change in frequencies is necessary, and an even more difficult change to effect.

Of Truth, Imagination, and Recontextualization

True principles are true principles, regardless of the context. However, recontextualizing them happens to be a good way to identify just how true they are. If they continue to function in context after context after context, you can generally bank on their veracity. Unfortunately, most people prefer that the clouds be white in a sky that is blue with a moon that is always yellow (even though, if they really stopped to look, they'd find that even in the world they define as "pure reality" clouds are just as often orange in a sky that is purple, with a moon that is light blue). It never occurs to most people to even try to cross-apply principles from one context to a seemingly unrelated one. After all, it takes a LOT of imagination to see how something like quantum physics could apply to human relationships or how the mathematics of chaos theory could apply to children's learning. Most people don't even know how to "imagine" on paper what is concretely displayed before them year after year, much less to make those kinds of conceptual leaps!


In order to truly understand a text, the reader must actively engage with the material, must connect what they know, understand, and have experienced with the material, and then must go through a progressive series of reflections and interpretations that eventually allow them to collapse all of the complex pieces into a coherent, integrated understanding of the whole. Most people read the text and that is it. When we expect students to come prepared to have deep philosophical conversations after a single reading, we are being unrealistic. We have to structure and scaffold their reading so that their brain has time and process to do all that expanding necessary to allow them to explore the potential implications of the text and relationships between them, and then the collapsing down to essential points, then the re-hydrating the dehydrated version so that it occupies a three-dimensional place in the brain's long-term filing cabinet.

The same is true of conversations with people. The same kind of thinking is required. Some people bring faster processing speed, more connections, more background knowledge, greater flexibility when it comes to leaping across categorical boundaries, so they can "get there" (to a synthesis) faster—especially if those with whom they are speaking are slower at accomplishing all of those things, or if the topic of conversation is something they have already spent a lot of time considering, but I suspect that the process is the same for both sets of people. "Intuition" plays a role in the process as well—speeding things along even faster for those who understand how to connect that pipeline of truth so that it flows into their other "ways of knowing."