It was cheap and had an alluring title: Who am I? by His Holiness Shantanand Saraswati, whom the Study Society’s Dr Roles (who knew Ouspensky) first met in 1961. (www.studysociety.org)
I like to buy things I’ve never heard of just for the surprise they create, the accidental things you may discover—books by authors previously unknown, CD’s with music by obscure composers…
Opening this little book Who am I? at random, I read something like: What characterises human beings is the faculty of DISCRIMINATION; ‘if they don’t use it they can’t learn anything…’
Now that’s an idea I have never focussed on before in quite this way.
I decide to think some more about it: discriminating between one thing and another is what enables us to learn: “This is different from that—I must take it on board…” “This is just like that—I must discover how it might help me identify what’s similar…” “I can tell that this person knows what they’re talking about—I will pay attention…” In the discriminating gap between one thing and another—the learning.
The gap is the important thing...
We perhaps don’t pay enough attention to The Nothingness of a Gap.
Spending more time in the Gap will help us to make use of discrimination to focus more clearly on what’s entailed in the whole learning process—we choose to limit ourselves when we only go halfway or focus on one thing to the exclusion of something else. In the gap it’s always a matter of choice.
Thank you, Shanatanand Saraswati! And Dr Roles… I’m very grateful…
But a ‘Faculty’ of Discrimination…? What is a ‘faculty’? Where does something we might call a ‘faculty’ exist in the honest-to-goodness electro-chemical neural network? What is ‘discrimination’? As a linguistic tag what does it attempt to pin down? I find it very difficult to harness an abstraction, an airy nothing, to do my learning for me; I cannot discover a thing in me with the label ‘Faculty of Discrimination’ attached to it. (See my book The Campaign against Abstractionism...)
What I do know, however, what I am existentially aware of in my ‘self’, is that is that I keep on shifting attention from moment to moment from one part of me to another. You know how it is: faced with having to make a decision, we say, “One part of me thinks x while another part of me thinks y…”; faced with a different group of people in a different context, we might say, “Wearing my hat as…” knowing very well that when we wear other hats we’d say something quite different—we are different people on different occasions; or we might confuse ourselves by finding that yesterday we were on top of the world whereas today we are down in the dumps—there ought not to be any confusion since all that’s happened is that we’ve moved from one part of us to another without realising it.
The plot becomes less thick when you accept the proposition that we are not one ‘I’ but many ‘I’s: one part of me (=one ‘I’) thinks x, another part (=another ‘I’) thinks y; we are one ‘I’ when cuddling the new grandchild and another ‘I’ when conducting a seminar; there is an On-top-of-the-world-I and a Down-in-the-dumps-I.
In terms of Allport’s Proprium, amongst other ‘I’s there is a Knowing-I. Making-discriminations-I is somehow associated with Knowing-I, helping it to figure things out.
Discrimination, says Shanatanand Saraswati, needs tuning. Making-discriminations-I requires a lot of practice. Important because what Making-discriminations-I tunes itself to determines what it get back in terms of learning.
Tune it to pure learning—that’s what you get; tune it to passion or inertia—then that’s what you get. The chief thing to do is to encourage Making-discriminations-I to be clean and precise in its operation so as to be able to distinguish what-is from what-is-not.
What happens during the course of an argument—think of any example from a simple difference of opinion to full-scale war? Everything becomes impure, mixed up and contaminated. Making-discriminations-I ceases to function. Argument is the product of confusion in the ‘faculty of discrimination’—no learning can take place.
When things are mixed up and contaminated there is no sorting them out because people drop down into factions—they identify with the point of view that gives them the greatest supposed payoff.
Language doesn’t help either: the language we use creates the world we imagine we live in (Benjamin Lee Whorf back in the 1920’s). We ought to mind our p‘s & q‘s; listen carefully to the language we use to notice how our world is constructed.
In his Blog dated 3rd July 2011, Peter Knight said
“Words are all we have,” said Samuel Beckett and whilst some might argue that we can communicate through other mediums such as pictures or even music we tend to label the landscape and describe the emotions using words. And of course we speak to ourselves using words and it is the choice of these words that is my current fascination.
Are you talking to yourself now? Of course the answer has to be “YES” as we rarely if ever cease. Some might be saying, “What a load of old bollocks,” whereas I hope others are saying, “This is interesting and worth reading.” Of course whatever you are saying right now will be different from anyone else and will change again should you choose to reread this at any future point.
Stephen Covey offered the idea that you make the greatest changes when you change your paradigms. Building on this, I actually believe the trigger is to review your language and its tonality too. Some clients tell me they have a very critical inner voice, some that it’s quite aggressive and challenging, “Come on idiot”…” This is going to be too hard”… “I’m going to cock this up…” My response is to encourage first a change in structure so that every thought is communicated positively— “Now I’m dealing with this”….”I’ve succeeded before and will do now”… “I’m looking forward to this…” Next I suggest the tonality is softened, perhaps even adopting another gender or accent—Colin Blundell, for example, chooses Marilyn Monroe to whisper to him! Finally, I suggest the speed of dialogue is reduced as well, ideally to half the normal speed or even slower. This of course takes practice and begins with making a correction every time you fall back to the old patterns, you will discover quite quickly that the change takes hold, probably around the 30 day mark, although for some much sooner.
Once you have started talking more positively with yourself you might then discover how your communications with others have improved as well, in fact I guarantee it. Words are all we have, so choose them carefully. (www.peterknightblog.com)
When Making-discriminations-I fine tunes itself in the way that Peter suggests in the Gap between this & that, true learning will take place. Mind the Gap though: being positive may not be all it’s cracked up to be… Positivity may get you to identify too quickly with one option rather than another.
Relish the Gap…