I woke up this morning to the hard pattering sound of January rain. As I lay in bed, I kept being drawn again and again to this beautiful sound. At one point, I imagined myself in a plastic yellow rain slicker sitting on my roof, hands wrapping my knees watching the rain race down the shingles.
My point for telling you this? I woke up wanting to know. Where does the sound of rain come from? More important, I want' to know why I still feel urges to know such things. Why? Because I am one of the lucky ones. At sixty, I still love learning.
Does it sound to you like I have a trait normal folks would and should envy? Know you might want to take a moment to think about your answer. You see, many days, I feel so deeply alone in my love of learning that I can't decide whether having it is a blessing or a curse. Which, like questioning a true love of any sort, then creates more twists and turns in my brain than January rain on my roof.
It's a fact, then. And we all know it happens. We lose our love of learning. Most of us do, anyway. Pretty early in life, in fact. Have you ever wondered why and where it goes? And if we can do anything to stop this from happening? For years now, I've been asking myself these very questions, hoping to make the world better for children.
So what does kill our children's love of learning? And can we re ignite this love in them? Or is it doomed to stay as dead as a stale romance, a vague memory of once having been smart?
The thing is, for years now, I've been following a clue. Somewhere deep inside me, I have always known this; that babies hold the key to what happens. Which is why I so often seek these answers in the company of those to whom I still feel most connected, the incredible little Chris and Christine Columbus's we call, our "children." Infants and young ones especially. They who are still so enthralled by the universe that they spend close to every waking hour reaching out and touching every thing in sight.
Imagine being them? To them, the entire world is an exciting next discovery just waiting to happen. It is to me too. The thing is, it's your beautiful world, too, you know. So why, when, and where do so many of us lose our desire to reach out and touch this beauty?
Is it simply that we fall out of love with the world; the honeymoon ends, so to speak? Is it that our not finding answers eventually hurts us so badly that we run out of courage and so, can no longer endure the pain of not knowing?
Is it that we lack the kind of teachers who could have rooted this adventure more permanently within our heart of hearts? Or is it something far more insidious, some inherently dark defect which comes pre installed in our very souls?
I have wanted to answer these questions for as long as I can remember. I, in fact, feel like I was born wanting to answer these questions. In this book, I will finally answer some of these questions. A sort of "what I have found so far" book. As well as a "name the mysteries I am still dying to know" book.
Curious as to what I may have discovered? Or are you sure you already know what I'm about to say? If so, then let me ask you this. Can you risk that I do know how to reclaim the love of learning, but that I won't get to share this with you. Remember, we all once felt ruled and fueled by an incredible curiosity as to the meaning of our world. Each and every one of us. We each also have this same curiosity ingrained in us 'till death do us part. This means, if you put in the time, you can reclaim your fire. Believe me, I have helped many people do this already.
If you are at all interested, then, by all means, please, step right this way. Where? Into the hall of great mysteries; the maze of mazes, the bullet hole in the rabbit hole. What the heck am I mumbling about? The thing we are all dying to know. And the thing we usually die from not knowing as well. The very nature of "learning" itself.
Speaking of dying, my father died recently. Not to be cavalier. But at eighty eight, he had lived a long life. As he reminded me often in the past few years. Then too, I was painfully sad to see him go. In fact, I was there at his bedside every day that last week, and held his hand and his head up as he fought for his last breath.
That week was extremely sad for both of us, I'm sure. But I've no regrets about how it happened either. More on this, and what I learned from it, later.
For now, what I'd like to say is what I remember most about him; that he, like me, loved learning. All his life, in fact. Where we differed, of course, was in what we loved to learn about. He. The love of mechanical things, the dissembling-torture baby boys frequently inflict on their parents. Me. The love of nature itself. Is a babbling brook alive like us? Do the trees hear me when I speak to them?
My mother? Dead forty years now. She was a religious fanatic. And other than that, apathetically absent from what to her must have been a terribly empty world. Not that she didn't offer me love. She did. It's just that it wasn't the warm soft fussy kind. Rather, it was the "ever excited by seeing me discovering things" kind. She loved seeing my "surprised by a discovery" face. My eureka moments. My childhood aha's.
Ironically, one of my aha's came from seeing her smiles. You see, even after being dead for forty years, her smiles still inspire me to keep looking for answers. What a nice thing to get from one's mother. Lasting love.
What kind of answers do I look for then? Years ago, after reading James Redfield's first best selling book, I amused myself by synthesizing these two parental qualities into some essential "me"; my basic core drive in life. My conclusion? I was driven by the combination of "a student of everything mechanical" and "a religiously zealous Catholic who loved spiritual moments." Which made me what exactly? According to Redfield, it made me "a student of the mechanics of spiritual moments."
This description is not far from the truth, in fact. The problem with it, of course, lies in the word, "spiritual," which to most scientists means, I'm a "crack pot." A problem which, if you are to be taken seriously, one must eventually face. Especially if, like me, your desire is to make the world better for children. A spiritual endeavor, if ever there was one.
This aside, this book is, in part, my way of facing this problem about being spiritual and being taken seriously. At least, I am basing what I'm about to tell you on what I've pragmatically discovered about life and learning. What I can prove. Scientifically. As well as spiritually.
What exactly have I discovered that I can prove? For one thing, that charting, in three dimensions, the visual intensity of what appears on the screen of our minds creates four three dimensional fractal patterns. And only four. One of which identifies an event as one in which someone has learned something. Permanently.
This means when this fractal is absent, so is the learning. Finally, a real test for learning.
Speaking of learning, based on these four fractals, I have also discovered an algebraic formula with which all things conscious can be described. With only four variables. Everything from why death makes us suddenly value people more to why rote exercises bore the mind to tears. Oh, God, they do, don't they?
Paralleling and expanding upon these discoveries, I realized that fractal geometry is the key to understanding everything in our world, from the sound of laughter to the causes of divorce. The whole of human nature in fact. Result. I have authored an entire theory of personality, a fractal theory of personality, the essence of which is that we all have a core personality fractal which never gets injured or destroyed. We merely lose access to parts of it.
No coincidence, the events which incur these loses can be visually represented, and empirically described, by yet another of the four visual intensity fractals I've just mentioned. Psychologists might call these events, us "getting wounded." Or being "traumatized." Or having "issues." Sadly, these descriptions sorely want for science. Moreover, lacking a truly scientific understanding of wounding has made us slaves to a "getting rid of the symptoms" mentality.
What am I saying? We all know the drill and drivel. Drug companies get rich, and we fail some more children. No one's fault really. This last part, that it's no one's fault, I really mean though. Seriously, I do. Why? Because we've had no way other than symptoms with which to discern what a "wound" really is. Which has lead some folks to describe the instrument of "healing" as some mysterious force undercurrented by chi, a magical remission into asymptomania.
Healing as the action of some mysterious force. Nah. The truth is, the only reason we've even considered these kinds of beliefs is because we have lacked a more technically accurate way with which to describe the mechanism of healing. More to the point, in lieu of scientifically defining "wounds" themselves, defining "healing" will forever elude us. So what's the answer? (And yes, I do believe in healing energies. Just not the kind we cannot reliably package and deliver.)
What Is the Answer?
So what's the answer then?
It's simple. Fractal geometry. You see, using fractal geometry, we can define these things. Wounds. Healing. Learning. Et al. Speaking of which, perhaps it's time I tell you some of what we'll be exploring in this book. The stuff I have learned from watching babies. The things I have uncovered about human nature. Beginning with that there is a part of each and every human being which never gets destroyed no matter what happens to us. No surprise this part is where we store our love of learning. Untouched. Intact. But sadly, for most of us, inaccessible.
How can I be so sure? Because the heart and soul of this whole book is a discernable personality fractal I've derived from what I've discovered about the uninjured parts of our personalities. The parts of us which forever remain uninjured. The parts of us I call, the Inner Four Layers of the Onion. Hopefully, this phrase will give you some visual reference for what we're about to explore.
In English now? I've found a way to decipher much of who a person is; how they'll act on good days and bad, and who they will and won't connect to by nature. All this in only nine questions, to boot. Ten minutes or so, at the most.
The result? Five pieces of data. That's it. Just five. But to someone with a background in Emergence Personality Theory, these five pieces of information can be more than enough to say where people will be happiest and with whom they'll most enjoy working.
What good do these personality fractals do us though? For one thing, placement tests based on these personality fractals could, in less than ten minutes, match students to teachers, so well in fact, that these tests could potentially raise the entire level of our kids' educations, nationally and noticeably, in less than one year.
Sound impossible? Believe me, it's not. In some small way, my colleagues and I have already been doing this very thing with each other for some time now. Including with our children.
Moreover, seeing this idea as true requires only that you find it in you to push past a few assumptions with regard to how learning happens. Or doesn't happen. Not the least of which is how we currently test kids for learning; by their being able to recite back what they've heard or read.
Parrots recite back what they've heard or read. Well, maybe not "read." The point is, though, children excitedly share with you what they've personally discovered. When they have truly learned something, that is.
Most times, then, and we all know this already, they, our kids, and we, have learned nothing at all. Even if we pass the test. Don't believe me? Quick. Without thinking. Tell me the most amazing thing you learned in high school. An academic thing. Not a social thing. Got an answer yet? Something you still feel amazed by? Good.
Now, without thinking, tell me a second something you learned in high school, something that still amazes you. Anything come to mind yet? Yes. Well, good for you. Know, however, if, off the top of your head, you just named two things which still amaze you from high school, then you truly are in a small minority. Indeed.
Shouldn't we all be able to do this? Many times over? And if we can't, then what then does this say about the quality of our educations? How much did we really learn?
Again. Parrots recite back what they've heard or seen. Children excitedly share with you what they've personally discovered. Unfortunately, we rate our kids educations mainly on how well they can parrot facts. Which, for all the well meant words and efforts of our educational theorists, means we are still squandering our most valuable resource; our children's minds. How? By requiring our children to submit to an educational system which now, more than ever, turns out parrots rather than people.
Parrots study and then pass tests. And then use their degrees to make money.
People discover beauty in what they study. And then use this beauty to make the world better.
Who are these parrots? They are children we educate in ways which kill their love of learning. And when these parrots grow up, they become you and me. Doing our best to survive.
Don't our children deserve more? Yes. And in this book, I intend to show you how we might give it to them. A few ways in which we might begin this healing process and perhaps, save our children's minds.
I also intend to show you a little about how we ourselves might reclaim access to some of the blocked parts of our own minds, mainly, to the parts with which we could again love learning. Beginning with teaching you the personality "fractal" that visually represents " learning."
The sad fact, though, is that most folks could care less what a "fractal" is, let alone that you do cannot possibly know yet what I'm talking about. Are you at least curious?
Other than that it is some vaguely interesting way physicists describe clouds or rivers. Think about it, though. This very feeling, this disinterest, may be the main cause for why these four fractals have gone by unnoticed. Let alone, that no one has previously fallen in love with them. I love them. You will too.
Okay. I know what you are thinking. Will this be a hard book to read?
The truth? I'm sorry to say, yes. It will be. Or maybe not. You see, your experience will largely depend on how much you can access your love of learning. For instance, do know what makes some teachers boring as hell? Do you care? Or why the educational drop out rates peak in and around the end of high school and the beginning of college? Are you curious?
There are clear, concise answers to these questions. Moreover, they are not based in pointing the finger of blame at anyone. Least of all, at our teachers. You'll have to be interested in order to grasp these answers, though. No McDonalds fast food parroting here, I'm afraid. In fact, you should know that one of the few genuine tests for learning is, "have you reinvented the wheel?" If not, then know, you are definitely parroting, no matter how well you do on tests.
Speaking of which, I doubt you'll be surprised to know that many of my heroes were or are teachers. I, myself, aspire to be a good teacher, just like them. I'd especially like to be good at teaching people how to access the love of learning.
The good news is, somewhere deep inside us, we all still love learning. It's only that our access to this love has become blocked. Moreover, because it's our access that's the problem and not the lack of love itself, this beautiful quality is never lost forever. At least, in theory. Rather, it remains buried inside most of us like diamonds in stone. There but for the fear of the depths of learning go you. Unless, of course, you are as driven as I by the abject love of learning. Fear or no fear. Depths or no depths. I'll certainly go where no man, or woman, has ever gone before.
Heard enough of my flippant dissertation? Please excuse me. I'm just having fun. Which is, after all, the only authentic reason to spend one's time puzzling together word after word. In fact, were it not for the fun of it, I doubt I'd do it. Just too much work.
Imagine if this were the criteria by which we judged our children's educations. Fun. Can you imagine?
This is how it should be.
This is how it can be.
Please let me show you how.