By Conrad P. Pritscher (Jun 05, 2014)
“Matter is like a small ripple on this tremendous ocean of energy, having some relative stability and being manifest….and in fact beyond that ocean may be still a bigger ocean… the ultimate source is immeasurable and cannot be captured within our knowledge.” –David Bohm
Schools and universities can be stressful places and have become training places for corporations where students have little control. As a result, citizens notice less and think they have less power to work toward what democracies need to do. As a result of narrow school and university training, citizens wait for some corporate or governmental authority to curtail the injustices done as a result of placing power in the hands of relatively few. We now train students for skills that will soon be outdated. Obedience to authority in these places is operating so well that practical wisdom and individual judgment are absent. Schools and universities have trained us to be more fearful of making mistakes, and as a result, we are often unimaginative and we keep our mouths shut about injustices. […]
Albert Einstein’s thoughts may help us learn to reduce silence about injustices. […] It takes two things to develop wisdom: You need to have autonomy, and you need to try things and see them fail and get feedback and slowly over time develop a kind of sensitivity to what each situation demands. If you put people in a situation where they are rigidly following rules, they will never have the opportunity to develop this judgment. Rules eliminate the need for judgment. […]
Einstein implied that uncertainty and appropriate “not knowing” may help us know more, and may help one free one’s self. […] If more is to be known, we may need more boldness, and courage in looking at what is unknown. Learning to learn may also require some boldness and daring. Our past training has avoided boldness, and daring. Boldness and daring are often disordered and seen by others as random. An aspect of powerful learning is to learn to give oneself conscious permission to make mistakes, then more inventiveness will flow. […]
Einstein’s breakthrough thinking was being compassionate, and helping one think something that can’t be learned from textbooks. What can’t be learned from textbooks is that which can’t be said. Learning what can’t be said includes what is known and what is unknown. Furthermore, it is posited that some residue of “unknown” will always remain regardless of the thoroughness of the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. […]
Einstein was a powerful learner who said: “I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.” His curiosity is the best place to look for what constituted Einstein’s genius. Einstein’s genius and curiosity spanned a range between everything and nothing. His genius, which extends beyond hard science to neglected aspects of cooperative social action, including schooling, is now becoming more fully uncovered.
The social thought of Albert Einstein continually refers to the benefit of an individual acting for the community. The community, to Einstein, is more important than the individual. It is posited that this benefit of the community rather than the individual is at the heart of “kind. compassionate thought.” The creative individual has the capacity to free herself from the web of social pressures in which the rest of us are caught. She is capable of questioning the assumptions that the rest of us accept. To Einstein, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” A worthy society provides free conditions for wonder, and open noticing of comprehensive events such as one’s present experience, universe, and the mysterious. His thinking about schooling is the intellectual equivalent of a nuclear chain reaction. The chain reaction could cause a shift in emphasis toward open cooperation, inquiry, and compassion to improve self direction.
Einstein’s fundamental belief was that freedom was necessary for creativity. Part of his notion of freedom was liberation from the self (people are highly unified… free from being a separate self). Freedom from national boundaries is another of Einstein’s thoughts. Vimala Thakar said: “As long as we cling to the idea that this is ‘my mind, my own personal mind,’ we’ll have a strong tendency to want to look as good as possible. But if we observe the mind, from a non-personal viewpoint, from the perspective of non-ownership, simply observe our minds and how they function, we’ll be less trapped by judgments.”
Einstein knew that everything that occurs, occurs in the present. Seeking in the present is powerful while seeking in the future is not seeking. Experience is most powerful when one notices what is happening “now.” Seeking in the future or past may prevent paying attention to what is happening now. […]Note what Nipun Mehta said of our distracting age: “We live in the age of distraction. Yet one of life’s sharpest paradoxes is that our brightest future hinges on our ability to pay attention to the present. Living in the moment — also called mindfulness — is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. Instead of letting your life go by without living it, you awaken to experience. Research confirms the benefits: it reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with cancer. Mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure.”
When one thinks an event is isolated, one does not notice the event is connected to a larger whole. In a context for a whole (event), more can be connected or subtracted from that whole. Contexts can be narrowed and expanded. At times, expanding, as well as some unifying, may be useful for understanding complexities. Learning complexities is an aspect of learning to learn. […] Einstein was a highly aware, profound inquirer. He said: “The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has attained liberation from the self.” Did he think anything was more important than learning to be free from a separate self? Awareness and inquiry appear to be a route through which Einstein highly valued learning, and the value of liberation from the self. Awareness of a greater connection than separation was the liberation about which Einstein spoke. One can tell when one has awareness of a greater connection through noting when one behaves kindly. He said: “Without deep reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people. Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
–Conrad P. Pritscher adapted from Einstein and Zen: Learning To Learn. [Illustration offered as an anonymous gift. :-)]