Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What Does It Mean - To Learn?

What Does It Mean - To Learn?
  by Lance Giroux

What does it mean - To Learn?
Depending on the circumstances, it's really up to you.
But then again, what does it mean - to Learn?

About this I believe Robert Frost had some insight when he penned:

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

Some years ago my aikido sensei, Richard Strozzi-Heckler, mentioned his being at a program that ended with participants articulating what they had learned.  A New Guinea fellow responded, "I'm not sure.  Where I come from we have a saying, 'Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle.'"

Again - what does it mean - To Learn?

I've just returned from a whirlwind six-week adventure.  From Oct 13 to Oct 17, it was my fortune to again work with Grayson James - supporting three candidates in training become certified facilitators of  The Samurai Game® (TSG) - Francisco Szasz and Pablo Ramirez Bellini of Mexico, and Cynthia Wu of Hong Kong.  Oct 18-20 saw me in Oklahoma City to deliver TSG for Devon Energy Corporation.  Then on to Wichita Falls, Texas, for a three-day visit with my mom and sister and nephew.  Oct 28 to Nov 2 had me traveling to The Hague, Netherlands, to support Lawrence Warry as we facilitated TSG.  From there it was Krakow, Poland for a business meeting and a few days of fun and aikido training with Pawel Olesiak and Pawel Bernas.  That stop was immediately followed by a week in Samara, Russia with TSG.  Finally (Nov 10) home in time to re-pack and head out for Seattle (Nov 13-17) in support of Two Cranes Institute.

If you were to ask, "What did you learn in all of that?" I'd have to reply that I'm not so sure yet.  It's swirling still inside me.  But definitely there was a lot to experience and absorb these past six weeks. 

Here's one thing - the similarity of people. I've written about this before; and yes, it's clich√©.  But really, regardless of spoken languages and nationalities and geographies and politics, the people I encountered were strikingly similar.  Their wants and needs were basically the same.  In them I saw a marked desire to live, move and express free from control and coercion.  At every stop along the way, there were desires to laugh openly.  People showed a need to feel as deeply as they wished, accompanied by a desire to be respected no matter what.

Here's another - there are differences in perspectives.  Regardless of similarities, people are shaped differently by life.  The spoken language, a sense of nationalism, geography, the printed and broadcast word (i.e. stories in the news), these create environments that shape human responses - especially responses to control or change or conflict.  As we landed in Samara a lot of folks were up and out of their seats well before the plane had even reached the taxi ramp.  The standard announcements were there, "Ladies and gentlemen, please remain seated until the plane has come to a complete stop."  But so what?  On the other hand, the landing in Seattle was marked by everyone sitting calmly the way to the gate, and then everyone remained seated and waited while folks in front of them stood, retrieved bags and quietly walked off.

Everyone wanted to get off the planes.  They just had different ways of going about it - often shaped by outside influences, many of the influences forgotten ... except by the body.

On November 8th I sat in my Samara hotel (The Patio) and watched BBC news - the Berlin Wall, the day's incursions into the Ukraine and Vladimir Putin.  A Facebook friend of mine from Tyumen, Russia, texted me, "Good evening!  Worried about the lack of understanding between our two countries.  Want peace."  I wrote back, "Yes, I want peace also."  She replied, "(heart)".

Again, I consider Robert Frost as he continues:

There where it is we do not need the wall:
[My neighbor] is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? 

What does it mean - To Learn - and how is learning made possible?
Be present.  Relax. 
Invest in the now. 
Be open to the notion that learning is always a possibility. 
Suspend judgments - all of them.  Be curious. 
Act with courage, enough to return into inquiry - no matter what. 
Never stop asking.  Listen for the multitude of responses. 
Notice what you hear.  Feel all of the responses. 
Observe the self in response to the responses. 

On November 10th I spent a few hours in the Lufthansa Lounge in Moscow's DME airport waiting a flight to Munich, writing and watching TV.  What was showing?  The 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  For me it was a surreal recalling of nightly news episodes beginning with when I was 11 years old.  The CBS, NBC, ABC reports (the only TV networks at that time) with images (only black & white) and voices (heavy and weathered) of Chet, David and Walter (Huntley, Brinkley, Cronkite).  I recalled the reports of shootings when people would attempt to scramble over the Berlin Wall. The images - bodies hanging from barbed wire and surrounding voices (muffled).

As with November 8, it was surreal sitting there in Moscow and looking at a flat screen plasma color TV.   On this November day some young model-ish commentator (not reporter) commented (not reported) about "The Wall's Coming Down" a quarter century ago.

When I was in my twenties and a "Cold War soldier", all Russians were "the enemy'.  Being in Moscow was an impossibility.  But a few November days ago, I stood inside an old Soviet schoolhouse in Samara ... darkened halls, wooden floors, steam radiator heating.  There I listened to a young college teacher talk about the absurdity of politicians (regardless of nationality) who must garner or maintain power with armed might.  He said, "And for what reason?"  His wondering - "Why not wage peace?"   This man's father could well have been "my enemy" when I was a "Cold War soldier".

One more time - Robert Frost:

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'  I could say 'Elves' to [my neighbor],
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. 

What Does It Mean - To Learn?

© Lance Giroux, November 2014

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