Friday, 30 March 2018

From East to West: The World is Music

It's my last day in Vladivostok tomorrow (which is yesterday back home!) I fly to Moscow on Sunday morning, where I will meet the friend who brought me here in the first place, and then back to Manchester on Tuesday. I'll be in Liverpool on Wednesday. I'm hoping that the jetlag (which was awful coming here) will have abated a bit in Moscow (Moscow is only 2 hours ahead of the UK, but 7 hours ahead of Vladivostok!).

Vladivostok is an amazing place: a European city in the Far East, and a city where nobody could go when I was at school - it was only open to the Soviet military (until 1991). It's still a land of tigers, leopards and bears - even if their numbers are much reduced these days. There's talk here of the perception by Moscow that Vladivostok is "remote". But really, Moscow is remote from here. This, it seems to me, is a place of the future. The world's axis is moving east: China is a bus-ride away, Japan, Beijing, South Korea (and North Korea) are a 2 hour flight away. And I think, what they are attempting here educationally is also of the future: the dismantling of the curriculum, the use of technology to create a free-flow of inquiry and conversation.

One of Roy Bhaskar's books on "meta-reality" is called "From East to West" (see Bhaskar's cosmology is very similar to that of David Bohm (Mark Carrigan wondered aloud to me whether Roy might have been heavily influenced by Bohm - or perhaps by the Bohm-Krishnamurti dialogues - I think he might be right). This is making me think of music...

I don't think Roy was particularly musical - he didn't talk much about it, certainly. Bohm, however, did. In music, he argued, we perceive directly the "implicate order" (see This is a very powerful statement, because it hints at a cosmology to which music gives privileged access. I've always felt this to be true. But if I was to say "the world is music", what does that mean?

For Bohm, it means that symmetry is the underlying principle of the world. From quantum phenomena to the dynamics of the universe there is a symmetry which unifies synchronic and diachronic dimensions. Time, history, structures, events, objects and perceptions are all enfolded in a pattern which we cannot perceive: but we glimpse it in the flow of music. I also think we glimpse it in our learning processes. Learning processes are enfolded in the fabric of the universe. We damage learning by creating ridiculous systems of education which only serve to alienate those caught in them - our students and teachers.

In Vladivostok, I have been able to explore a corrective to the state of modern education. I think there has been some success. Some of the damage - particularly to teachers - has started to be undone - at least for a some. There's much more work to do. There is a real job to do here. It's making me think about the job I have in Liverpool, which is largely focused on the maintenance of a broken system by breaking it even more with technology! This is daft. The UK's education system needs to look east. It could do a lot worse than looking to Vladivostok.

The other part of my job in Liverpool is connected a project with China, which I was partly responsible for getting funded. Again it is about solutions to problems in the East which the West could learn from. Again, it is really about symmetry between individual perception and judgement. Like the Vladivostok experiment, individual judgement is converted into collective judgement, and technology is used to coordinate action and drive conversation.

My perception of the music in the world is helping me to see the symmetries everywhere. Maybe it's because I'm now quite exhausted, but it seems to me that at a time when the UK higher education system is in a deep crisis, and my University and the Open University are engaged in large-scale redundancy programmes (stupid name for sacking people), I'm optimistic about the future of education. But the crazy status-driven Western system of the US, UK and Europe is broken beyond repair. The future lies elsewhere.

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