Saturday, July 14, 2012

Edgar Cayce...

Is the future ahead of us where it can be seen, or behind us where it can be understood? Edgar Cayce was an American clairvoyant whose most famous prediction was that California would drop into the sea. It hasn't yet, but parts of it are headed there in geologic time.

According to legend, Cayce was having trouble in school and discovered that by sleeping with his head on his books, he would know and remember their contents by morning, and so that raises the question, is consciousness a necessary part of learning or even required? What part is played within the unconscious mind? Julian Jaynes in the Origins of Consciousness in the Bicameral Mind proposed in his review of scientific experiments that consciousness is not required for either thinking or learning.

This month's National Geographic has a short article on the decline of cursive, and a longer article on the decline of languages. With the loss of cursive, we have no idea what we are actually losing except that the fluidity of hand, ink and thoughts on paper are a bit different in subtle ways from keyboarded stuff. The fluid transmission of words on paper through trained muscles in the hand would be a thing of no consequence to most. In fact, if one approaches education without any understanding of the relationship between the hands and brain in learning, the decline of cursive might be seen as a good thing.

In the case of languages, the consequences may even be more dire. With one language disappearing from the human communicative capacity every 14 days, we will all be speaking in one of three major languages (English, Mandarin or Spanish) in no time, and in no other, but in doing so, will be losing valuable culture, content and perspective. Can the full breadth of human culture be expressed in these three languages? How much will we forget of our relationships with each other and to the planet?

In the National Geographic article on loss of languages, one of the languages described as nearly lost is a Central Asian language, Tuvan. In Tuvan, what stands in front of you is the past and what lies behind, the future. It is an interesting juxtaposition given George Santayana's comment about the past... Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it. In the future, the past is probably sneaking up on the unwary. In a culture in which proper regard is given to history, looking forward to the past makes sense, and if things do move in cycles, I look forward to the return of wood shops to American education.

Making is also a language, but of the hand and eye, rather than of voice and of text. Much of the human story is told through artifacts of human creativity. We may learn quite well by falling asleep in our books, but not so much by failing to make.

Have at it. Grab a tool and get busy.

This morning I went to buy lumber, waited for a severe thunderstorm to pass after the wood was loaded in the truck and I managed to make it back to Eureka Springs without getting my walnut and white oak lumber wet. Looking back, but with no pretense of clairvoyance, I somehow knew that could happen.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. There are reasons for hope- some educators out there are learning the importance of teaching the making of things. See Amy Smith's work at MIT-

    D-Lab @ MIT:


    Youth on 4 continents