Sunday, 6 April 2014

Meandering, Connecting and Learning

Tim Ingold is right about lines (see his Actually, I only stumbled on his work (so much of life is stumbling) because I showed some of my distorted musical scores to a friend who happened to have the book on her kitchen table and made the connection. This is the latest incarnation of my score:

Ingold's fundamental question is "how come all our lines became straight?" To put it another way, how come 'connecting' became more important than 'meandering'? It is, after all, meandering that is the dominant form of human experience. The tragedy of the education system is that it fails to recognise the importance of meandering: it assumes that learning is 'connecting'. It sees 'connections' it those 'aha' moments as Koestler called them - the moments when something 'clicks'. But I wonder before the advent of the 'switch' how human beings accounted for that moment. The scholastics, for example, would not have talked about 'clicking'. They might instead have talked about revelation, epiphany or quest. Epiphany does not happen at a click (imagine the Magi being teleported instantly to the stable on receiving a text-message of a virgin birth!) It is the journey that matters, not the destination! C.S. Lewis got it right "The longest way round is the shortest way home"

Our straight connecting lines leave us no space to "be". It is because we have no space to 'be' that we cannot find our way home. Connections have caused us to lose ourselves.

As a cybernetician however, I'm aware we can do funny things with connections. Feedback is the way back to meandering. But because feedback is made out of connections, the connecting mentality assumes that meandering is in fact connecting. That's a meta-connection - the connection that our clever connecting brains make out of understanding connections. But it's wrong.

It's all a bit like Popper Clocks and Clouds. Are clocks clouds? Are clouds clocks? But I can't help thinking that like most philosophers Popper was a connecting man. Deep down, his clouds were clocks.

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