In Quest of a Dynamic Pattern of Transformations
BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 1 October 2012
by Anthony Judge – TRANSCEND Media Service
Sensing the Strange Attractor of an Emerging Rosetta Stone
The primary concern here is with the manner in which transformation occurs under a variety of guises, but it is the recognition of the generic form that is the key — although the nature of that generic can not be adequately described through the language of any of those guises. Each is a way of partially experiencing the underlying existential pattern. This approach is consistent with the original quest of general systems theory, with the exception of the emphasis on the cognitive and existential challenges and the implications for comprehension and communication with what can only be partially described.
Christopher Alexander emphasizes recognition of a “quality without a name” within well-designed environments — environmental design perhaps to be understood as one of those guises (The Timeless Way of Building, 1979). The emphasis here however is on the dynamic nature of that “quality without a name”. Each such guise may however cultivate a sense of its own completeness and adequacy — in preference to others, or precluding consideration of them.
In particular, literacy and numeracy are derivatives of that underlying pattern, exemplified by the engagement with recreational mathematics or the insights associated with sacred alphabets, and embodied in them. The conventional preoccupation with either in education exemplifies cognitive inadequacy in “describing” and “re-cognizing” the subtleties of the underlying pattern of transformations. Any reconciliation of them implies a degree of “stereoscopical capacity” enabling a form of “depth perception” — as emphasized in recognition of general systems. This then relates to current preoccupations with sensemaking, especially at the global level where what is “reasonable” is readily contested — as in official US response to widespread Muslim protests against the American-made film Innocence of Muslims.
The argument here is that the educational focus on literacy or numeracy inhibits recognition of the dynamics associated with the underlying pattern. This may well be manifest and familiar in other domains with which an individual may be variously engaged as a consequence of any process of “education” — sport, cooking, music, etc. An individual may exhibit considerable innate talent in domains undervalued by conventional education — as exemplified by the relative importance conventionally attached to the variety of forms of intelligence (Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind: the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, 1983; Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ, 1996). Consistent with the kinesthetic intelligence noted as one of Gardner’s types, with which many are familiar through sport, aerobatics and dance, the argument takes account of emerging recognition of the embodiment of mind in movement (Maxine Sheets-Johnson, The Primacy of Movement, 2011; Mark Johnson, The Meaning of the Body: aesthetics of human understanding, 2008).
The concern here is exemplified by the questionable importance attached conventionally to learning the “multiplication table” as being fundamental to numeracy. The question however is whether there is a more fundamental “table of transformations” which might be more fruitfully and readily learned as a form of “Rosetta Stone” — of which the significance and pattern of the multiplication table is essentially derivative and partial. Just as education in numeracy necessarily endeavours to convert experience into quantitative form, the question is whether education in transformation more generally would offer a degree of access to the forms of transformation possible in a variety of domains — and common to them from a generic perspective.
The assumption is that greater understanding of transformation in generic terms, as a complex of processes, would enable and sustain new forms of development — especially for the individual in times of crisis. With respect to its relevance to current global challenges, the approach takes its inspiration from the argument of Albert Einstein: The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.
This argument follows from issues raised previously (Transforming the Art of Conversation: conversing as the transformative science of development, 2012; Interweaving Thematic Threads and Learning Pathways, 2010). As a form of literature survey of possibilities, avoiding closure, the approach follows from a previous argument (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts — for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007).
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