Rhythm of Learning, Rhythm of Life

northstar Dec 5, 2022
Ist mir mîn leben getroumet, oder ist es war?
Have I dreamt my life, or was it a true one?
-Walther von der Vogelweide

Rhythm of Learning, Rhythm of Life.  Why did I write this for [Northstar](https://www.northstar.edu.in)? More often than not, my thoughts are not teased out of the ball of wire mesh that they are. The first stirring of the poetic thought is perhaps uniquely undeterred, unmeshed. Some readers of poetry would say that the first reading is too timid, too unsure. Second, third and more readings must be done to truly understand. A reasonable thought indeed. For someone with limited capacity, like myself, I have always tried to listen to the first, primal thought. The poetic image. Pregnant with possibilities and unburdened with realities. Borges would say that the first reading is the true one, a feeling of untamed rendezvous. The phenomenon of the poetic image at the moment of its emergence is perhaps an epistemological break, where the imaginary disjoins from the real.

Rhythm of learning

Alfred North Whitehead conceives of the student’s learning and growth as a cyclic process; each cycle consisting of three stages: first the stage of romance, then the stage of precision, and finally, the stage of generalization. The first stage is all about “free exploration, initiated by wonder”, the second about the disciplined “acquirement of technique and detailed knowledge”, and the third about “the free application of what has been learned”. Rhythm of learning like the daily rhythm of life, like seasonal and yearly rhythms. It cannot be monotonous without variations.

The Stage of Romance

The stage of romance is the stage of first apprehension. The subject-matter has the vividness of novelty; it holds within itself unexplored connections with possibilities half-disclosed by glimpses and half-concealed by the wealth of material". This is perhaps where magic happens; where one finds Sinbad or Le Petit Prince. Or perhaps Mr Frodo Baggins and his party. Here one becomes friends with Dahl and Dr. Seuss, with CS Lewis or Lewis Carroll.  

The Stage of Precision

In this stage, width of relationship is subordinated to exactness of formulation.  It is the stage of grammar, the grammar of language and the grammar of science." As in a burdened school year and curricula, the tyranny of completion and coverage. In the same vein, one could argue that we learned the grammar but did not understand the novel or be moved by the poetry. Akin to understanding individual words of Hesse, but not Hesse himself (if one may ever).

The Stage of Generalization

The final stage of generalization is Hegel's synthesis (as are the first two stages similar to Hegel's thesis and antithesis). "It is a return to romanticism with added advantage of classified ideas and relevant technique." While most learning is stuck in second phase, a great revelatory pull exists beyond that. To be able to see and think more deeply, more sensitively, more personally.

Rhythm of Bashō

The rhythm of Bashō is the rhythm seasons; of the subtle movements of elements; of the flow of river and those syllables in 5, 7 and 5.

furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

water's sound
old pond—
a frog jumps in

kare eda ni
karasu no tomarikeri
aki no kure

on a withered branch
a crow has settled--
autumn evening

Both translations from Barnhill - Bashō’s Haiku.

Many years ago, I remember talking to my teachers about The Northstar Way which is perhaps more like the Bashō way than the Bushido. Worried of acts of indiscipline during unsupervised time of breaks, they complained, rightly so, to 'plug the gap'. And I wondered for a while, and realised that those gaps, those crevices are the seeds of laughter in the present and memories of the future. The rhythm of us and me, of class and no class, of holding and releasing, is the beating heart of the school.

The swing between the indeterminate and the intentional makes the experience of the rhythm of school, and perhaps the rhythm of life, more in tune with my natural harmony, my melody, my laya.