Image by svklimkin on UnsplashThe book Proficiency by George Leonard has been advised to me by lots of people, including chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley, swimming legend Terry Laughlin, and drumming phenom Dave Elitch.
Among my favorite sections is the epilogue, entitled “The Master and the Fool,” which Ive posted below with consent from Plume, an imprint of The Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
It explores a concern: What are the keys to long-lasting and rapid learning?
There are numerous keys, however perhaps the most important is found in this five-minute read …
The Master and the Fool
My mind went definitely blank, and I heard myself saying, “Its simple. To be a student, youve got to want to be a fool.”
It was not so much a question as a need, practically a danger. He was a mountain male, with the long black hair, bold moustache and rough-hewn clothes of a nineteenth-century hooligan, one of a type that lived illegally in the rugged hills of the Los Padres National Wilderness Area along the Big Sur coast of California– a location of hawks and buzzards, mountain lions and wild boar. Having just kipped down the last proofs of a book on education (it was in the late 1960s), I had actually driven 4 hours south from San Francisco for a weekend of relaxation at Esalen Institute.
The mountain man nodded thoughtfully and said “thanks.” There were a couple of more words, after which I got into my vehicle and went back down the mountain. Numerous years were to pass before I thought about the possibility that my answer was anything more than a part of one of those somewhat unusual, quickly forgotten sixties episodes. Still, the time did come when concepts from other locations– all sorts of concepts– started to coalesce around my reckless words of recommendations, and I began to see more than a casual relationship between learning and the desire to be foolish, in between the fool and the master. By fool, to be clear, I do not mean a foolish, unthinking individual, however one with the spirit of the medieval fool, the court jester, the carefree fool in the tarot deck who bears the remarkable number absolutely no, symbolizing the fertile void from which all creation springs, the state of vacuum that permits new things to come into being.
Theres daddy leaning over the crib of his eighteen-month-old boy. Out of the infants babble comes the syllable da. This time, daddy looks down sternly and says, “No, son, that is incorrect!
The mountain man showed me into a steadily constructed cabin with a large front window looking 4,000 feet down to the Pacific, now shining like a sheet of metal in the late afternoon sun. We sat and made disjointed conversation for a while. I found myself rather disoriented. For the presence of numerous conga drums, we might have been sitting in an early nineteenth-century leaders cabin. It was all like a dream: the not likely invitation, the rugged drive, the mystical woman, the expansive gleam of the ocean through the trees.
When Jigoro Kano, the creator of judo, was close and rather old to death, the story goes, he called his trainees around him and informed them he wanted to be buried in his white belt. At the minute of death, the supreme transformation, we are all white belts. In the masters secret mirror, even at the moment of highest renown and achievement, there is an image of the most recent student in class, eager for understanding, willing to play the fool.
” Man,” he said, “you are a student.”
Or you may take the case of an eighteen-month-old infant learning to talk. Imagine the daddy leaning over the baby crib in which his child son is taking part in what the behaviorist B. F. Skinner calls the free operant; that is, hes just babbling numerous rubbish noises. Out of this babble comes the syllable da. What occurs? Daddy smiles broadly, leaps up and down with joy, and shouts, “Did you hear that? My son stated daddy.” Naturally, he didnt say “daddy.” Still, nothing is far more fulfilling to an eighteen-month-old baby than to see an adult smiling broadly and jumping up and down. So, the behaviorists verify our common sense by telling us that the likelihood of the infant saying the syllable da has actually now increased a little.
The infant occurs to say, not da, however dada. Through such supports and approximations, the young child lastly discovers to state daddy rather well.
The theme of vacuum as a prerequisite to substantial knowing reveals up in the familiar tale of the smart male who comes to the Zen master, hoity-toity in his fantastic knowledge, asking how he can become even smarter. The master just pours tea into the wise males cup and keeps pouring up until the cup runs over and spills all over the wise male, letting him know without words that if ones cup is currently complete there is no area in it for anything new.
Tell me. How can I be a learner?”
My conservative city clothes had most likely led him to think that I was a total newbie at the conga drum, the instrument of choice of the counterculture, and hence he should have been impressed by my seemingly fast development. He proceeded to inform me that he was a sculptor who worked metal with an acetylene torch, and that he was terribly stuck and had actually been for a year; he was no longer a student. Now he wanted me, a student in his mind, to come up to his place in the Los Padres, look at his work, and inform him how he could be a student.
If this scenario ought to seem severe, consider for a moment the knowings in life youve forfeited because your moms and dads, your peers, your school, your society, have not enabled you to be playful, complimentary, and absurd in the knowing procedure. How numerous times have you failed to attempt something brand-new out of fear of being thought silly? How frequently have you censored your spontaneity out of fear of being thought childish? Regrettable. Psychologist Abraham Maslow found a childish quality (he called it a “2nd naivete”) in individuals who have actually met an uncommonly high degree of their potential. Ashleigh Montagu used the term neotany (from neonate, implying newborn) to explain geniuses such as Mozart and Einstein. What we resent as absurd in our friends, or ourselves, were most likely to smile at as merely eccentric in a world-renowned genius, never ever stopping to think that the freedom to be silly may well be one of the keys to the geniuss success or even to something as standard as finding out to talk.
As I approached the lodge– a rustic structure built at the edge of the Pacific on among the couple of locations of flat land in between the sea and the mountains of the Los Padres– I heard the noise of conga drums. Inside, the mountain man was sitting at one of the drums, surrounded by 8 other people, each also at a drum. He was obviously providing an informal lesson to whoever cared to get involved. One of the drums was vacant. I pulled up to the vacant drum and joined the others, following the instruction along with I could. When the session ended I began to stroll away, but the mountain man came after me, understood my shoulder, and repaired me with a substantial appearance.
What would take place under these situations? If all of the adults around a baby reacted in such a way, its rather possible he would never ever discover to talk. In any case, he would be affected with major speech and mental problems.
” I want you to inform me how I can be a learner.”
The invitation baffled me, but I understood it was a rare opportunity to visit the forbidden haunts of one of the famous mountain guys of Big Sur, so I instantly accepted. I followed his battered sedan up a tortuous and high dirt road, then across a mountain meadow to a driveway that was absolutely nothing more than 2 tire tracks through a forest of live oak, madrone, and bay trees. For what seemed a very long time, the vehicle stumbled and labored steeply upward, coming at last to a clearing near the top of the coast variety. In the cleaning stood numerous wooden structures: a two-room cabin, a tool shed, an unrefined studio for metal sculpture, and something that might have been a chicken or bunny coop. At one point throughout my check out, I found a slim girl with flowing blonde hair and a long gown standing like a ghost near the edge of the clearing. He never mentioned her.
When the mountain man revealed that we would now look and go at his work so that I might tell him how to be a learner, I dumbly followed him out, having no concept of what I might perhaps say that would be of any usage to him. He strolled me through his sculpture chronologically, showing me the point at which he had lost his creative trigger, had actually stopped being a learner. When he ended up, he repaired me with his eyes, and duplicated his concern one more time.
And for all who stroll the course of mastery, however far that journey has actually progressed, Kanos request becomes a sticking around question, an ever-new challenge:
Are you ready to wear your white belt?
From Mastery by George Leonard. Published by Plume, an imprint of The Penguin Publishing Group, a department of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 1992 by George Leonard.
George Leonard was an American author, editor, and educator who composed thoroughly about education and human capacity. He acted as president emeritus of the Esalen Institute, past-president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, and co-founder of Integral Transformative Practice International.
Associated and Recommended
He was a mountain man, with the long black hair, bold moustache and rough-hewn clothing of a nineteenth-century criminal, one of a breed that lived unlawfully in the rugged hills of the Los Padres National Wilderness Area along the Big Sur coast of California– a location of buzzards and hawks, mountain lions and wild boar. As I approached the lodge– a rustic building constructed at the edge of the Pacific on one of the few areas of flat land in between the sea and the mountains of the Los Padres– I heard the sound of conga drums. Inside, the mountain male was sitting at one of the drums, surrounded by eight other individuals, each also at a drum. The invite baffled me, but I realized it was an uncommon opportunity to go to the forbidden haunts of one of the legendary mountain males of Big Sur, so I right away accepted. The master just puts tea into the sensible guys cup and keeps putting till the cup runs over and spills all over the smart man, letting him understand without words that if ones cup is already complete there is no area in it for anything new.
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