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No Parroting Allowed!

Learning Emergence by Asking Questions

Emergence Group Babies

"Remaining Conscious While Reading"

Questions for the Week of October 16, 2006

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When asked, "how do you best learn?" most people usually respond with either a technique, like, "in a classroom," or by naming their favorite sense, like, "I learn best visually." Unfortunately, this implies most people define "learning" as the ability to parrot the correct answer.

What is wrong with this? We believe that "parroting the correct answer" creates parrots, not students; dullards, not Einsteins. So how can we create more Einsteins? By asking questions which are intended to provoke the student's own questions. More important, we see this as the best way with which to reawaken in students the love of learning.

This week's topic is, "Remaining Conscious While Reading." Would you like to actually learn more about this topic? You can, simply by reading the teacher's questions and then, by asking yourself, "what questions did these words just provoke in me?"

"Remaining Conscious While Reading"

Teacher's Questions (asked by Jen)

  • When I think about how many books have been written, printed thousands of times over and the stores and libraries that contain them, I am overwhelmed at human natures' capacity of the written word. But how does language convey thoughts and emotion? Can they be expressed in words written on a page?
  • How easy is it to communicate feelings of joy, despair, anger or even annoyance? Can there be a way to write consciously and double check that with in ourselves as we do?
  • How do we know that a person who reads what we write truly understands the meaning of what we wrote? If it was written consciously, will that guarantee it will be read consciously or just increase the chance of that happening?
  • Is writer's block a box that we do not know exists or is it a box we know exists but haven't gone inside yet?
  • When we read another person's writing, how do we measure our state of consciousness while reading it? Is it our experience of delight in what we read, delight in what we don't understand and/or the enjoyment of the words that were written?

When I read the words written by Jane Austen in Sense and Sensibility:

"Restless and dissatisfied every were, her sister could never obtain her opinion of any article of purchase, however it might equally concern them both; she received no pleasure from any thing; was only impatient to be at home again, and could with difficulty govern her vexation at the tediousness of Mrs. Palmer whose eye was caught by every thing pretty, expensive, or new; who was wild to buy all, could determine on none, and dawdled away her time in rapture and indecision."

What delights me every time I read this is the vivid picture of this woman who is out shopping with her sister Marianne. I get such a scene in my head of her sister's annoyance with Mrs. Palmer due to her own distracted state of mind.

  • Was Ms. Austen conscious when she wrote? My guess is yes because of my gauging of how consciously I can picture her words.
  • Is this a fair and truthful assessment of her consciousness while writing? Or is just because I favor her style of writing?
  • What about a different style of writing that uses words to convey a feeling without information?

Carroll Lewis who wrote Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, wrote "nonsense" to give the reader a sense of his imaginary world of nonsense he called the Jabberwocky:

"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe."

  • Did he try to confuse us or did he use language in a way to create a picture for the reader that was not based on any reality?

Possible Student Response Questions (asked by Ed)

Hello Jen,

These are some amazing and challenging questions. Some of them I have been chewing on over the last few years. Even though I am slightly intimidated by them, I am glad for the challenge you have presented me with. So far the most difficult part of this assignment has been choosing the three I want to answer. The next difficult part is actually developing an answer, as my first reaction tends to be shock.

But this brings me to the first question.

"Is writer's block a box that we do not know exists or is it a box we know exists but haven't gone inside yet?"

Many times I have been full of inspiration to write and sat and stared at the monitor suffering to begin writing, hating the little blinking cursor. I'm doing it know. I have only a few layer 2 ideas about how to answer this, but I realize I have no picture for writer’s block. I was going to say the simple answer to your question is yes, until I saw that I couldn't see my answer. So I don’t know, but I would like to explore it.

Before I go further, I want to say that I am answering this question from the perspective of what I believe conscious writing to be; conveying a picture through words. Often when I am moved to write, I have a clear picture, or movie, in my mind and I act more as a bridge, conducting the images to the reader. When I do this it is usually in response to my need to share the picture. At this point I am in layer seven and my need is to further understand something through writing. When successful, I am able to stay conscious in my need and connected with the picture I am trying to share. This approach is usually effortless and enjoyable. I can tell how successful I am by how much delight the reader shares. At the risk of soaring out to layer 2 and losing us; using this definition, writing becomes a function of the inner layers of aloneness.

One thing I can say is that when I have writer’s block, I am in shock and my mind is empty of all pictures. Or I only have one picture, and it doesn't involve writing. It is at those moments when I suddenly become interested in cleaning off my desk, or calling someone, or playing a video game. This experience of need is more of a symptom in the sense of feeling I have to stop writing. Well that just emerged, the feeling that I have to stop writing. When I have tried to push through the urge to quit writing, it has been painful and inefficient. Essentially, in those moments, I am writing blind. I see now that, as with most things involving understanding, I fall back to layer 2 type of writing and ignorant to seeing how I was writing without picturing.

I am beginning to understand writer’s block as both a box we don’t know exists, and one we know exists, but has not healed. Either way, I think it is a writer’s BLock: the blocked ability to write. I see the space I am in as the movie version of space stretching out for as far as I can see, silent and cold. I am alone and lost. I am then full of the need not to be alone. Except I don't know I am alone and I no longer know I was writing. I go looking for chocolate and surf the net. Time slips away and then I look at the clock and Bam! I am suddenly hyper-conscious of time. And then I am forced to go back and try to write some more. Except now my ADD resists being forced to do anything. I end up feeling like I am in that space between two magnets of the same charge.

I sit down and jostle the mouse and the screen comes up. There are jumbled words and sentences, and a blinking cursor. I muster my will and try to write, except I can’t think of anything to say. My gut is twisted and my head begins to rage. I can't write. I'll ask for an extension, or I'll just do it later. I want to blame anything and everything when that happens. Sometimes I never come back to it.

Why? I think its all about BLocks. I think writer’s block is a symptom. What is your experience of writer’s block like? Is it hell for you too?

Additionally, when I think of writer's block, I think of the free-writing exercise some people use to get their writing flowing again. It is usually suggested that a person just write about anything until they eventually find their way back to writing. Free-writing I think would be more effective if the person focused on whatever shred of picture they have and begin working it, like a pie-man works a dough ball into a pizza crust.

Now, the second question:

"When we read another person's writing, how do we measure our state of consciousness while reading it?"

Can you picture what you are reading?

And the third:

"How do we know that a person who reads what we write truly understands the meaning of what we wrote?"

A wise sage once said, "There is no "true" meaning, only "a" meaning". I doubt that it is possible for anyone to have the exact same meanings. Its amazing that any of us understands anything that we say to each other. Just look at the emails that flew last week. I know I misunderstood many things in what was written. I think that it’s human nature for this to happen. It would be more beneficial for people to be on the look out for when they go into shock and address the disconnect, rather than deal with what has been written. Basically practice emergence.

As for knowing whether or not they get it, one way of knowing would be to ask the other person. Aside from that I do not know. I guess making sure that you can picture what you wrote. Assuming that if your a conscious writer, your work will find conscious readers.

Hope all is well.

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