What light do we need? LO28184

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@postino.up.ac.za)
Date: 04/09/02

Dear Organlearners,

Think of the following. We are in a pitch dark place. Dozens of strange
objects have sharp edges to them so that when we stumble against them, we
will get hurt, sometimes even fatally. But we have to move around in this
place. How will we do it safely?

One solution is to use a stick like a blind person does. But then we still
have the problem that although we can point out these objects, we cannot
touch them self.

The obvious solution is to have light -- a candle or a torch. Even with
the smallest candle or torch we will get enough light to find our way. The
more the light, the better we will find our way. Let us now use this
physical example as a metaphor for something else.

The spirit has to move around in the world of information just as the body
in the world of objects. Information is actually meaningless. It can be
considered as pitch black. For example, I can quote something in Zulu and
it would be meaningless to anyone who does not know some Zulu. I can also
quote something from, say, super-string theory and again it would be
meaningless to anyone who does not know some super-string theory.

The world of information is not only pitch dark, but also has many objects
with sharp edges like contradictions, partisanships, technicalities and
over-selling. Allow me to give a personal example. A few days ago I got
private email from a person in a country which has not yet figured in our
LO-dialogue. This person wrote that he is interested in the 7Es and
entropy production, but that he wants me to instruct him privately. My
first reaction was to explode -- he ought to know how much I am against
rote learning. I almost wrote back that he should check up on what I had
written on rote learning. But then I decided to write back that I do not
understand what he wants me to do. Furthermore, should he have any
questions, I will try my best to help him to answer them.

His reply made me ashamed for my first reaction. He is a Christian in a
country where it is dangerous to be a Christian. He is very much aware of
the two paths in life, the broad, linear one going downwards and the
narrow winding one going upwards. The 7Es made him aware that they have
much to do with distinguishing between these two paths. It is something
which I also know for the past 17 years. My intended reply "check on rote
learning" would have been a deadly sharp object to him.

How would our minds move around in the pitch dark world of information
with its many sharp edged objects? Our minds need a source of light just
as our bodies with their eyes need it. What would this mental source of
light be? Leaders of various ilks like religion, politics, science or
business claim their light to be the best one. But you, dear fellow
learners, what light do you use to see the dangerous objects in
information clearly?

Through the millennia many philosophers tried to describe this light
clearly, each by his own philosophy. But because of the continuously
changing world in which human generations come and go these enlightening
philosophies invariably became extinguished. We may try to develop
similarly a philosophy for our post-modern times. But I think it will also
become redundant or unknown sooner than even later. Any articulation of
such a philosophy is merely information. This crucially important
information will become insignificant in the deluge of other information.

I am also tempted to claim that Systems Thinking (ST) or General Systems
Theory would be such a light. However, billions of people have never even
heard of ST. Furthermore, many of the few who have heard of it, think of
it as not important enough to be used as the light to shine upon
information. Despite the effort of those who work hard on ST to improve
it, any articulation of ST is again information under the vast deluge of
other information. What will qualify any information existing on the
outside as important to the knowledge living inside?

Last Sunday I was listening to a sermon. At a certain stage the pastor
said, referring to one of the psalms, that God's Word is the light for our
spiritual path. This I do believe because I know that God is the light.
Yet I have to take into account that billions of people have other
religions. I cannot expect from them to follow the Bible as the source of
light, even though they need light just like us. Furthermore, there are
many versions of the Christian religion (like the Orthodox, Catholic,
Protestant and Pentecostal branches), each which interprets the Bible
differently. There are even splinter groups which use the Bible to justify
their grotesque plans for a better future.

I think that not even any sacred scripture is open to clear
interpretation. What we make out of it is predetermined by what we know,
including our Mental Models. For example, in a recent reply to the topic
"Definition of Mastery" I wrote "magister"=boss to avoid circular
reasoning. This may have annoyed many fellow learners, putting them in a
negative attitude because of their negative experiences of bosses.

We in South Africa have many such experiences, especially during the last
dozen years or so of apartheid. Our state presidents acted like a boss
whose words were the law. We even had the notorious Bureau Of State
Security of which the acronym is BOSS ;-) White men were generally
addressed by black people as "boss" rather than as "sir". All this has now
changed a lot. We are becoming a society in which we do not pent-up our
negative experiences with bosses, but try to find solutions for "bossy"
leaders. That is why I wrote "magister"=boss without thinking twice that
it may be information with a deadly sharp edge to it.

The question which I want to put to you, dear fellow learners, is what
light do you use to find your way in the world of information?

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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