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On Learner's Block - part 2

the Emergence Explorer

Questions for the Week of June 4, 2007

Emergence Character Type Babies 9-AI-2

This Week's Questions

[posed by Ed D.]
  • Does conscious learning ward off Dead Stops? If so for how long?
  • Is a "being lock" (a BLock) the same as a "Learners Block?" If not, how are they related?
  • Is learning like a bicycle tire that you spin by hand; when learning slows, you must rev it up it with curiosity?

Do you know?

[Question 1] Is a "being lock" (a BLock) the same as a "Learners Block?" If not, how are they related?
A "Block" or "being lock" is a place in your mind wherein you cannot picture. Not even if you are asked to make it up. Thus your ability to be yourself is blocked. Which is why we use this phrase.

Similarly with Learner's Block, your mind is in a place wherein you cannot picture. Not even if you are asked to make it up. And in a way, here too, you can not be yourself.

So what is the difference? Is there even a difference? Yes. And the difference is in the focus. In other words, the difference lies in what you are trying to do when these things occur.

With a BLock (which is just another way to refer to a wound), you are trying to escape your past. With Learner's Block however, you are not trying to escape. Rather, you are trying to understand something. And trapped in a swamp of trying too hard. Mostly in a swamp of failed attempts wherein you digressed too far from the answer you seek.

Admittedly, both states are painful. And both can require outside help to see past. However, while Blocks center on the experience of trying to escape things, Learner's Block focuses on trying to go deeper into things.

[Question 2] Is learning like a bicycle tire which you must keep spinning by hand? In other words, when our desire to learn slows, must we always rev it up it with curiosity? And when it slows to a dead stop, is this how Learner's Block occurs? No curiosity?
The simple answer? Yes. Curiosity is one of the things which spins the bicycle wheel of learning. Thus we can use curiosity to rev up our desire to learn. However, more times than not, when we hit learner's block, we cannot access our curiosity. This means we must rely on a knowledge of how the Four States in which we can learn to get us out of this stuckness.

The Four States again? By Unknown, by Momentum, by Emergence, and by Extension. The four states which can rekindle our lost curiosity. Moreover, what is important to know here is the sequence in which these four states occur. As such, it functions something like a map to our curiosity.

How does knowing this sequence work?

When we cannot manage to access the experience of curiosity in and around some particular subject, the first thing we need to do is to ask ourselves, what do I not know? What is unknown to me?

For instance, if the topic is the mind body connection and you are looking to expand what you know, you might ask yourself a few existential questions, such as "what is a mind" or "what is a body?" Or you might go in the opposite direction, by asking yourself a few miniscule questions such as "what is a single thought" or "what do we sense when see darkness; mind darkness? body darkness? both?"

Your goal here of course would be find a question which sparks your curiosity. Why? Because once you get this, it's like getting a spark which has the power to rekindle an almost dead fire.

Herein lies the power in asking questions honestly. They open a path in us to the state of learning we call, by Unknown. Which if we nurture, can change this spark of curiosity into a burning desire for knowledge.

What's next then?

Fanning the fire.


You'd use your spark of curiosity question to stimulate lists. For instance, the question, "what is a mind," might lead to "what is a mind made of?" Or to, "does a mind die when a person dies?" Or to, "can a mind grow or does it only add content?"

Making these lists can create great momentum. And by Momentum is the second of the Four States of Learning. An easy one to be in, mind you, but no guarantee you will learn anything permanent. Why not? Because not all fires cook great meals. Thus, it takes a great chef to use this fire correctly.

Focusing our efforts not on quantity but on quality is what leads us to have aha's. Eureka's. Or as we refer to them, emergences. Which is just another way to refer to what happens to us in the third state of learning.

What are we like here? Temporarily, we feel a great surge of curiosity. A desire to know it all. Which, if we honor our limits as human beings can lead us into the fourth state of learning, by Extension.

Sometimes though we forget our limits and stray too far from what we just learned. In these times, we end up in a swamp of digressions, which then begins this cycle all over again.

So what part does curiosity play in all this? Mainly, it is the spice in the learning recipe. Why the spice and not the whole recipe? Because as the old saying goes, pain is the great motivator. The pain of failed grades. The pain of being seen as ignorant. The pain of being stuck in a rut in life.

Eighty percent of all motivation comes from this and similar pain.

And the rest?

About fifteen percent of what motivates learning comes from the desire to gain reward. Freud's Pleasure Principle. The carrot at the end of the stick.

Where does this leave curiosity then? At about five percent of the time. Which, if you think about it, is pretty good considering that when we feel curiosity, we are swimming in the river of knowing. Or climbing up the tree of knowledge. Whatever the metaphor, it is the joy of learning that drives curiosity. Not learning to avoid pain or to gain reward. Just learning for learning's sake.

[Question 3] Are dead-stops affected by the momentum of Emergence Learning? In other words, does conscious learning ward off dead-stops? If so for how long?
The quick answer? Not really. And this is a question I've been asked in many forms over the years.

The big way of asking it is, is it easier for a healthy person to learn than an unhealthy person? My answer? While healthy people do have much more momentum, they also have greater ability to resist the learning process. Many times, because they feel they should know things.

This means that at times, and with the right guide, helping unhealthy people to learn is easier. Why? Because the pain of their injuries is a great motivator. Eighty percent, remember. And the need to rekindle their curiosity is a smaller part of the process.

On the other hand, with healthy people, the momentum of simply living a good life can sometimes create in people the willingness to learn. Something similar to how vanity in thin people can motivate them to stay thin.

So back to your original question. Does conscious learning ward off dead-stops? At times, it can. But as a fractal pattern which always repeats differently? Not really. It seems, we humans can be as complicated as there are possibilities at times. And that this is one of those times.

[Question 4] When driving, what value is there in knowing where you are? What would be the value in knowing when you are lost? What would be the value in knowing how to read a map? And what would be the value in learning to recognize the pattern of being lost?
Four questions. Let's begin with the last one. Why? Because it's the only one worth asking. At least for a normal non philosophical person.

What would be the value in learning to recognize the pattern of being lost? This question translates into the question, what would be the value in recognizing the difference between being in a Learner's Block and in the State of Learning we call, by Unknown. What's the difference?

When you are in the State we call By Unknown, you feel the purity of a child's neediness. At least with regard to wanting to know something. Which is why we say being here is being in Layer Seven, the Layer of Pure Need.

However, when you experience Learner's Block, you are experiencing some kind of symptoms. Anger. Frustration. The desperate desire to force an answer. Thus these things are all Layer Five experiences; things we feel in the Layer of Symptoms.

And the other three questions? The value in knowing where you are, knowing when you are lost, and knowing how to read a map? All three things are really just experiences we feel during our journeys toward learning itself. And yes, knowing the map of the Four States of Learning does help. As does knowing what state you are currently in. However, even if you do not know these things, you can still be an extraordinary learner. For example, witness your two year old son, Ed. He knows none of this yet he learns with a passion.

So yes, knowing these things has value. However, the main things is to do things. Not to know things. Doing them is knowing them but with the added benefit that they affect lives. Directly and with beauty.

[Question 5] Isn't it amazing that it is built into our nature to go in the direction most impervious to learning when confronted by a mystery? To shuttle from the Inner Layers to the Outer Layers? I'm curious as to what your definition of "snapping out of it" means. Does it mean the pain goes away or that you no longer care? Or does it mean that you leave the problem and move on to something else? To some other state?
Snapping out of it? This one is easy. Why? Because there are only two basic experiences wherein we snap in or out of anything. One, the experiences wherein we get wounded, by being startled by something which snaps your mind shut. And two, the experience wherein we have an emergence. The times wherein we feel amazed by how we no longer feel trapped. We literally snap out of something. Our woundedness actually.

The thing to remember here is that while not knowing can be painful, it doesn't always indicate we have a wound. Thus while it may indicate we are reliving a wound, it may also indicate we simply cannot find our way out of a labyrinth of digressions. A simple but painful state wherein we have wandered so far off the beaten path of what we have learned that our minds feel like we're straddling ten thousand thought canyons.

Not a pretty sight.

I guess, then, the thing we might say here is that there are two experiences wherein we snap out of anything. The one wherein we snap out of a healthy situation. and the one wherein we snap out of an unhealthy situation.

In both cases, we simply bring something into focus. Whatever it is we are trying to see. Which beings us back to learning again. And to the idea that everything we experience can be voiced as some state of learning. Whether painful or pleasant. Whether temporary or permanent.

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