Think about this : The stretch between "What makes you want things ?" and "What makes you do things ?". How does "want" affect "do". How does desire translate into action. And is desire necessary for action to take place? The reflection started during a presentation about Jacques Rancière, a French philosopher. In his book "The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation", Rancière describes one of Joseph Jacotot's expriments. Jacotot, a French pedagogue was trying to teach French to Belgian students whose language he didn't speak and who didn't speak any French at all. This was a long time ago. So he gave them a book in French and its translation in their language (Flemish I believe, a Dutch dialect) asking them to hand in their opinion about the book later ... in French !
Amazingly, they did. Jacotot concluded three principles :
- All men have equal intelligence
- Every man has received from God the faculty of being able to instruct himself
- Everything is in everything (there is no distinction to be made between learning mathematics and literature for example)
Clearly what enabled the students to learn by themselves is trial and error. Our same old evolutionary trick. The students tried to identify similarities, failed some time, tried again, honed their comparisons, reached conclusions. Trial and Error. And Sugata Mitra, an Indian pedagogue, in an incredible TED talk, also makes this process clear:
In a sentence : "Education-as-usual assumes that kids are empty vessels who need to be sat down in a room and filled with curricular content. Dr. Mitra's experiments prove that wrong." (Linux Journal). The groups children form, and the way they imitate each other and emulate positive behavior is the consequence of a phenomenon this blog has tackled over and over. In a world, you might say empathy. But empathy isn't the Holy Ghost. It is very real and the doing of very specific neural phenomena caused by mirror neurons as VS Ramachandran explains in his TED talk:
So if education is self-organizing as Mitra explains and that our beings guarantee such an organization will occur as Ramachandran explains, what's the use of a teacher ? Let me be clear. In my view of things, a teacher speeds up the process. So speed-wise, you can accomplish more with guidance. Only quality-wise, a kid or kids will never learn as well as when he or they learn on their own.
Why ? Because it is only when They decide to learn, only when They make the move to get something that they actually end up owning it. They make things their own when they move on their own. And the key word here is Movement. In the "to move your a** and do something" sense of the term. Which takes us back to our question : "What makes you do things ?" or "What makes you move ?"
If you look at these Indian kids learning how to use a PC on their own in Mitra's experiments, and when you think of self-learning Belgian students in Jacotot's classes, you start wondering whether it is desire, a "want" that leads them to "do" or to move. And that's when Vagina monologues come in.
Wait. What ? Yes. Listen to Eve Ensler's take on security:
I think what makes these Indian kids and these Belgian students "want" to learn is : Curiosity. And I think Curiosity comes as a stark opposition to Security. But what is happening in the backstage of that confrontation is more fundamental. It actually rests on a single notion that frees the one that masters it. A stupid story helped me understand:
There's a book you'll hesitate to read called "Who moved my cheese?". It's the story of two mice whose cheese was moved in a maze. While Hem, one of the mice, starts ranting, since its cheese isn't there anymore and the status quo changed, Ham, the other mouse, imitates its friend until it realizes something : There is no Cheese here anymore. If he moves, he loses nothing. In other terms, he has absolutely Nothing To Lose. And this single realization is what sets up a series of reactions leading to his decision to Move. Hem and Haw are obviously two sides of our beings.
We haven't evolved to Know but to Move. Every step in our evolution and hence every feature we've preserved contributed in one way or another to carving a species of survivors. How would a knowledge seeking creature possibly survive through the dangers of the primal savannas? It can't. Instinct, light-speed reflexes, split-second decisions that engage our whole being : That is what moves us. Our brain is not a thinking machine, it is a movement enhancer device. But don't take my word for it, listen to Daniel Wolpert talk about it:
It's all about optimizing movement by enriching the process with meaningful feedback. Every memory your brain holds, every emotion it has, every reasoning it's capable of ... everything that amazed you about it for so long is meant to optimize your movement. Actually : "People go about their lives planning movement so as to minimize the amount of noise". Because movement is stems from an external feedback, our brains have developed an internal way to strip that signal from its imprecision: memory. Which itself is enriched by experience. What I'm trying to say, as a sub-set of this whole logic: We are, by nature, uncertainty avoiding machines (Bayesian inferring machines as Wolpert would put it) . We abhor change. We all do. Because it hinders our movement optimization process. Movement Is evolution's real achievement. Not reasoning. Not logic. Not Sudoku solving skills. Movement.
So what ? "So what ?" !
We evolved to move the best we can, avoiding uncertainty and possible sources of change during the process. We are uncertainty phobia. All of us. So when we chose to move in an other direction. A new direction. When we adopt change, we are doing something Very original. We are going down a new path. We are giving evolution a tap on the shoulder and saying, I'll take it from here. We're giving the finger to all of humanity. In the financial world, that's called contrarian investment I guess. And it's a winning strategy. Very often. Why ? Because you're doing it differently. Playing evolution's game by borrowing the least crowded path. It may not be the winning path. But if it is, you've beaten the whole crowd to it.
But in order to chose that path, in order to move, I believe it isn't possible, meaning you don't make that move, you don't start learning, you don' t take a risk, until you realize, or train your brain to realize that you have nothing to lose, relatively to what you are about to win. Until you switch its Bayesian probabilistic, utilitarian approach and make it understand that what you could gain surpasses what you are losing. You have nothing to lose. Evolutionary speaking, what's made us make the first step the dark moments when we were stuck was realizing we have nothing to lose.
My twitter handle is @iamfrankenstyle. I am Frankenstyle :) "Frankenstein with style". It's a name I came up with some years ago. It stuck around. I used it to describe a new way to dance I was trying. The idea was to move in the style of Frankenstein. Frankenstyle.
Dancing is an act very similar to painting. You paint music with your movements. It is ephemeral of course. But the feeling you inspire in the people around you and the feeling you get out of it are just as durable as the ones you get after staring at a painting. The reason is Movement. Movement is powerful. It's what made us stick around all these years. And what's great about dance is what Eve Ensler expresses in a sentence at the end of her talk : "I realized it absolutely didn't matter where I was going, or where I had come from because we are all essentially permanently displaced people". We didn't evolve to rot in a house or an office. We are not goal driven. The top pf the Everest is not what draws us. It's the trip, the bloodied hands, the sizzling breath. Sedentarism is an artifice we invented. Nomadism is our first nature.
To those of you who are still reading: Join the Movement