Unblocking our ability to learn LO22747

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Mon, 27 Sep 1999 16:23:26 +0200

Replying to LO22687 --

Dear Organlearners,

Glen < VoxDeis@aol.com > writes in reply to
Vana Prewitt <vana@praxislearning.org>

>>So, what works? I think it always comes down to inidividual
>>encouragement, mentoring, coaching, and undoing the harmful
>>messages of the past that have convinced an individual that
>>learning will produce either something negative or no positive
>>results. Most people have a great fear of looking foolish in
>>public, and publicly failing as a learner goes back to early
>>childhood. If those messages and fears are deeply entrenched,
>>it will take a lot of work and many years to make much of a
>>dent. The person who associates learning with emotional pain
>>is not highly motivated to pursue it.
>I think what Vana is sharing here is tremendously important.

Greetings Glen,

I agree. Thank you very much for pointing out Vana' contribution. Thank
you also for sharing with us your own experiences.

Skip this long contribution if you are a fellow learner who needs Occam's
razor. This contribution will tell you how and why to avoid destructive
creativity which blocks our ability to learn. This is the sort version.
The long version is as follows.

After my MSc in physics and four years of research in the chemistry an
physics of soils, I became a high school teacher in science. I did so
because the life of a learner and the complexity of learning became much
more important to me than that of soils. Great advances in soil science
become pretty unimportant when farmers cannot make such advances their

I learnt many lessons about human nature (including my own) during my
four years as a school teacher. One lesson stands out against all the
others. I never expected to learn this lesson. What lesson? Up to 9 out
10 "problem pupils" at high school were children who experienced
destructive immergences during their earlier childhood years (usually in
the family) and who since then did not have a caring counseler to guide

The first six months of those four years I also punished those "problem
pupils". But thanks to God I soon became deeply under the impression that
this punishment was merely adding insult to injury. In my focus to learn
self more about the relationship between creativity and learning, I was
often perplexed by this "adding insult to injury". I soon realised that
the creativity of other people had very strong negative effects on the
creativity of these "problem pupils". But exactly how remained a mystery
to me for another ten years.

Glen, you yourself describe these negative effects as follows:

>I was one of those people who had mental models of stupidity.
>I grew up with the feedback, and pardon my language, of being
>"numbnuts, shithead, or peckerhead". Those words described
>my past self concept. Unconsciously I sought to that level. I did
>next to nothing in school. Actually, I never read a book until I was
>20 and at that point was functionaly illiterate. Took me literally
>hours to finish a few pages.

(snip, one sentence)

Then you continue with:

>Some of my most cherished memories are of those people that
>took the time to show me I was more than what I thought I was.

Thanks for those people. And thanks to you who wrote: "... I was more than
what I thought I was." Your words tell me the same as those 9 out of 10
"problem pupils". They tried to live with the open wounds caused by the
destructive creativity of others. As soon as they succeeded through
self-organisation to cover this wound with but the tiniest layer of scar
tissue, the judgement and punishment of the self-righteous scraped that
callus protection away to leave the wound open once again.

Perhaps I have to explain the mystery concerning "adding insult to injury"
once again. The use of "open wound", "scar tissue" and "scraping collus
protection away" were clearly to me a metaphor borrowed from the physical
world. Although quite descriptive, they have no explanatory and predictive
power in them. In other words, as descriptions pertaining to a physical
phenomenon, they begged for a systems thinking themselves.

I was also very puzzled by my awareness of "destructive creativity".
Literature on creativity presented creativity as something which is by
definition constructive. There were many different definitions for
creativity in those times (and even more today), but all of them shared
this assumption that creativity is a constructive property. I began to
search for a definition of creativity which did not embody this assumption
of constructionism. The more my attempts proved to be futile, the wilder
my searches in literature became. Today I realise how my searches slowly
drifted to the edge of chaos, fired by the mysterious incongruency of
"adding insult to injury".

Glen, you also write:

>What changed things for me was someone who believed in me.
>Someone who made it their "personal mission"... as Vana so
>noted previously.

I also became aware how not only creativity could degenerate into
destructive immergences, but also learning and believing. How can all
these humane behaviours become destructive? You write that things changed
for you through "someone who believed in me". How many times did I not ask
myself the following question: "When I believe in a person, do I not
believe that something XYZ makes that person live constructively?" I knew
intuitively that I had to find this XYZ if I wanted to excell in helping
others to help themselves. Maturana's idea of "autopoiesis" and
Prigogine's idea of "dissipative self-organisation" became very promising
to me, but somehow their ideas failed to make any connection with
creativity for me.

In 1982-83 I discovered empirically that entropy production does happen in
the abstract world of mind. I began to realise intuitively on the one hand
that creativity has much to do with entropy production, but also on the
other hand that entropy production has much to do with
constructive-vs-destructive outcomes, i.e ordinate (creative)
bifurcations. In the latter I not only had much experience (physics and
chemistry of inanimate systems like soils and biological systems like
plants), but also systemic guidance by the Brussel's school of thinkers
led by Prigogine.

Many of the Brussel school of thinkers themselves were desperately trying
to find the factors which influenced the outcome of ordinate bifurcations
at the edge of chaos. One thing they knew for sure, to reach the edge of
chaos, entropy had to be produced. The more their attempts proved to be
fruitless, the more they began to believe that the workings of ordinate
bifurcations will remain a mystery to humans. As a result they began to
condone indeterminism-uncertainty as the fundamental feature of ordinate
bifurcations at the edge of chaos.

I cannot tell in words how much pain and indignation this conclusion of
the "end of certitude" caused within me. To me it meant fixing the mystery
of "adding insult to injury", condoning it as a necessary evil. By that
time, through my experience as midwife in helping others to take control
of their own future through authentic learning, I managed to heal
permanently many of the wounds caused by others in my own life. I was
becoming increasingly aware how on the one hand I used definite tacit
knowledge to act as midwife, but on the other hand how immense my
struggles were to articulate this tacit knowledge. I felt how this cry for
the "end of certitude" was scraping at scars of wounds which were actually
mending and thus should be left alone.

I became aware how a massive entropic force in me was
slowly building up. I let go SOME of it and from the resulting
brain storming (chaos) a definition for creativity emerged
which astounded me.
I began to realise that entropy production makes it indeed
possible for creativity to have ordinate bifurcations at the edge
of chaos, i.e constructive or destructive outcomes. Soon it
dawned upon me that the very cry "the end of certitude" itself
is a destructive rather than constructive outcome. I then
realised that since nobody else seemed to be willing or capable
of finding the factors which influence ordinate bifurcations, I
will have to find them myself. I will have to self-organise myself
irreversibly where others failed to do so.

I also became very much aware that two kind of voices were calling out to
me from the past. The one kind was voices which claimed that ordinate
bifurcations will remain a mystery forever -- voices with a destructive
outcome. The other kind was voices which encouraged me that it is indeed
posible to learn authentically what was hitherto unknown -- voices with a
constructive outcome.

Glen, these voices of the second kind (of people like Leibniz, Pasteur,
Planck, Gibbs, Bergson, Einstein, Lewis and Eddington) were acting very
much like your own description "What changed things for me was someone who
believed in me." Obviously, they were not aware of me, At de Lange. Yet
it was as if each one was personally encouraging me to find out what
factors were influencing the outcome of bifurcations. Why? Because these
people believed in the potential of humans (collectively and individually)
to shape their future for the better. Were their voices which I heard
enough to certify me ;-)?

To make it worse, the loudest voices of the first kind came not from
science or humanities, nor from the everyday walks of life, but from
certain preachers in the church who proclaim the dogma that nothing good
can come out of a sinner. They preached the salvation through Jesus Christ
as a magic remedy for all misbehaviours. I myself was a reborn believer
(then for about fiveteen years). But my own efforts to resolve the mystery
of destructive creativity without invoking sin like them was according to
their proclamations a most sinful action. Some of them used to say that I
wanted to take the life out of sin, making it lifeless and thus lees

I knew that the crucifiction of Jesus clean believers from sin, but also
that He commands His believers to learn from Him -- not to sin any more
while taking up their own crosses which he promised would be much easier
than it was for Him. Carrying my own cross was certainly not a magic
remedy, but ardous learning -- not accepting as a parrot what others
proclaim, but finding out for myself the details of ordinate bifurcations
in creating, learning and believing.

I became intensely aware that as a teacher (midwifery) I should make no
distinction between Christians and non-Christians. As a teacher I cannot
offer the "magic remedy" that the crucification of Jesus will deliver
people from destructive creativity. Two important articles guided me.
Firstly, the Christian rebirth is an action between the Holy Spirit and a
particular person in which I have to stay clear from enforcing anything.
Secondly, reborn Christians, although they do not want to sin any more,
can sin just as easily as others if they act in ignorance. My conviction
grew that all humans are in want of authentic learning, irrespective of
their faith. I began to perceive how employing Christain beliefs to judge
a person's learning is one of the cruelest ways to inflict wounds in that

It became very clear to me that if I want to proceed any further, I will
have to discover the factors which influence bifurcations at the edge of
chaos. These factors had not to be contrary to the main teachings of
Christian beliefs. But these factors were certainly not articulated
specifically by Christain beliefs. How could they since Christain beliefs
for almost 2000 years said nothing about creativity. Although the
intuitive awareness of people to creativity was centuries old, (think for
example of Leonardo da Vinci) its formal articulation is a post WWII

I had two small advantages above others. Firstly, thanks to the work of
Prigogine and co-workers, I knew that massive, fast entropy production is
vital to reach the edge of chaos. I knew how to produce such entropy,
formally for physical transformations and intuitively for spiritual
transformations. Secondly, thanks to the work of Eddington and my own
discoveries, I knew that I should not keep physical and spiritual
bifurcations apart from each other any more, but rather seek corresponding
patterns between them because they are two sides of the same coin.

So one day I decided to let go of the INJURY (pain of all my wounds and
that of others which I was fortunate to learn about) as well as the
INSULT (anger at reopening these wounds in me and others through judgement
or punishment). I used this mystery of "adding insult to injury" as the
negative side of a gigantic entropic force. I knew intuitively that I had
to contrast it with the positive side to obtain the actual force. Thus I
contrasted it with what I now regard as the adjoints of successful
emergences such as happiness, curiosity and motivation. I intuitively knew
that I had to let my mind and heart meander where ever this entropic force
took my spirituality.

It was like a skipper of old, setting sails and thus letting the wind take
the ship to whatever destination. I knew I had to steer the boat (the
controling by the system), but I also knew that the wind (the influence by
the surroundings) was just as vital. I had a feignt idea of where the
destination was because it involved three patterns which at that time I
could articulate best with the strange words "becoming-being",
"categoricity" and "monadicity". I eventually discovered what I call the
seven essentialities of creativity. The rest you can read in my series on
them beginning with

Creating a Passion for Learning LO17474
< http://www.learning-org.com/98.03/0235.html >

Glen, you write:

>I can still remember what it felt like to have my undergrad advisor
>highly suggest a Ph.D. program. I almost wanted to argue it away.
>But he cared enough to keep reinforcing me.
>So... what worked for me was people who cared enough to believe
>in me when I didn't know how to.
>Please never under estimate the power to care about people.

In my case my advisor, or rather midwife as I want to call him, was my
father's half-brother, Phillip Rudolph de Lange. He was originally a
diamond cutter like my father, but he became a science teacher whose
calling it was "to let pupils cut diamonds out of the themselves as the
rough gems". During my five years as a student and the next eight years,
the first four years as a reseacher in soil science and next four as a
teacher, we had hundreds of hours of deep dialogues on the essence of
life. When I moved from Potchefstroom to Pretoria, I continued to send
him all my writings for much appreciated comments.

At first he managed to keep up with me, understanding what I was doing.
Later on he became more perplexed at what I was trying to accomplish. When
we met every couple of months, he asked me to explain in great detail what
was impossible by means of paper correspondence. Yet, whenever I send him
something, he went through it with the utmost dilligence, giving his best.
His replies made every writing look like a christmas tree -- his red,
green, blue replies in pen and grey in pencil around and over my Xerox
copies in black. How I long for these beautiful christmas trees!

I shared with him my extreme frustration in finding someone to accept me
for a PhD program. Every promoter seemed to be eager at first. But
mentioning creativity, constructionism and destructions, spirituality,
learning as irreversible self-organisation, interdisciplinary thinking,
complexity, entropy production, chaos and order quenched their eagerness.
It made each promoter insisting that with my PhD I will have to prove that
I am a master of the promoter's discipline and the general concensus about
it rather than finding out how creating, learning and believing can become
constructive or destructive. Suggesting a team of promoters/advisors
failed time and again because what I had been doing doing and planned to
do, did not focus on any particular discipline and thus made the choice of
the leading promoter/advisor obvious.

Unlike you I did not wanted to argue the PhD program away. Exactly the
opposite happened -- the establishment wanted to argue it away. A young
colleague of mine, Ockert Farquharson, is now experiencing the very same

But "Oom Flip" (as we called him) kept on caring for me, even when he was
not able to fathom my reasonings or feelings all the way. Sadly, he died
before we could share the fruits of his midwifery and my persistent
questioning -- the seven essentialities. I was the daring skipper and he
the compassionate passenger on a ship called Team Learning, both exploring
the unkown world where the physical and spiritual realms join each other,
a world free of the boxes which people draw around themselves and insist
others to jump into before any colaboration was possible.

Perhaps I differ from you, Vana and others. Perhaps we belief very much
the same, but because of our incomplete articulations we do not fully
appreciate what each is believing in. Thus allow me to articulate how I
now understand it.

It is too imprecise for me to say that I believe in any person. I believe
in the potential of every person to improve his/her present way of living.
This potential has two facets: CONTENT (involving free energy, entropy
production, cycling between equilbrium where digestions happen and the
edge of chaos where bifurcations happen) and FORM (involving the seven
essentialities of creativity, namely liveness, sureness, wholeness,
fruitfulness, sparseness, otherness and openness). I also believe that
the best person to change that very potential is that person self by
learning authentically about the nature of that very potential.

This learning of this potential is the so called second loop of "double
loop learning" where the first loop concerns the authentic learning of any
subject of the entire academical spectrum. "Double loop learning" is for
me just another way of becoming aware of "deep creativity" and its role,
contructively or destructively in the behaviours typical of humans, but
not exclusive to them. To say it in yet another way, blending Personal
Mastery and Systems Thinking becomes easier with an awareness of "deep
creativity". Lastly, I firmly believe that although the person is self the
best agent to transform him/her through learning based on constructive
creativity, also the environment and its people play a vital role in
making this Personal Mastery and Systems Thinking optimally. The
environment or surrounding system has to act as a Learning Organisation
(LO). Nature is ready to act as a LO, but human organisations have to make
a deliberate choice to act as LOs.

My task as midwife (teacher, facilitator, counseler) is to know self as
much as possible about "deep creativity" so that I can guide the learner
through both the first and second loop of double loop learning. In other
words, my task is to let Personal Mastery, Mental Modelling and System
Thinking join into a whole from which the creating, believing and loving
learner will emerge. My authentic teaching has to complement the authentic
learning of the learner. Not only learning has to be based on creativity,
but also teaching. I came deeply under the impression of this wisdom while
designing and programming an authoring system for CAE (computer assisted
education) lessons.

Since creativity is the result of entropy production, it is crucial for me
to know where the entropy production is initiated, in the system SY or the
surroundings SU (in which also the teacher is situated). Entropy produced
outside the system and then deluging the system with it, often on purpose,
usually leads to destructive outcomes, causing the "wounds" of the
metaphor used in the beginning. The system is in form not mature enough to
deal with the content forced upon it. It rather should have produced self
its own content in terms of its form available to it. Trying to heal these
"wounds" by a second bout of destructive creativity is like scraping the
callus tissue away, adding insult to injury.

My vision for the new millenium is that humankind has to stop challenging
destructive creativity with destructive creativity. Two negatives, action
and reaction, do not make the final outcome positive. They merely force us
humans (like the repulsive force between two like charges) to drift
further away from each other, from the rest of Creation and from the
Creator. The only way to overcome destructive creativity is not to combat
it, but to make it obsolete with constructive creativity since its
emergent of highest order, namely unconditional love, is the strongest
force of all. It enables each of us to learn self things which are
otherwise impossible. It enables each of us to respect all other people
irrespective of their own developmen in whatever aspect.

The bonus of constructive creativity is that it keeps regenerating our
motivation, our spiritual free energy so much needed to stay spiritually
alive. So when I believe that a person has the potential to change his/her
future for the better, that person is also primarily responsible for
generating the free energy to do so. All over the world most managers on
all levels of organisations of all sizes have one very big problem -- how
to get those who they manage, motivated and keep them motivated so that
the organisation as a whole can benefit from it. The solution to this
problem is peculiar, almost as if it is a denial of the problem. It is not
the managers who have to motivate the people and keep them motivated, but
the people themselves.

The task of the managers is rather to guide the people how to accomplish
self motivation and not make things more difficult for people to do so,
especially not with their art (theory and practice) of management. Their
task is not to inflict wounds and open up old wounds already healing, but
to take care not making new wounds, to clean inflammated wounds with
unbounded compassion and to take joy in wounds already healing -- not to
add insult or injury, but to avoid both the injury by destructive actions
and the insult by destructive reactions. Whatever the art of management,
the wisdom of management will always be to avoid destructive creativity,
that which blocks our ability to learn.

Thanks again Glen and Vana for your inputs.

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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