I’ve mentioned earlier on this blog that this year has been one of great learning and self discovery. I’ve also realised that such terms can be extremely abstract and on closer scrutiny may not convey anything at all. It’s been an enlightening practice to reflect over what one has said/written/thought and really cross examine it to understand more deeply what you yourself are conveying by it. This has been one of the areas of learning.

Doing this in real time has been extremely difficult to begin with. Sometimes one has no choice. For example, take the first sentence. If I’m telling someone that it’s been a great experience of learning and self discovery, most people would accept it at the surface level or assign their own interpretations to it and move on. But at Sahyadri, in serious discussions, many a times it is not left at that and if what you say isn’t unambiguous, there would be further questions, not to intimidate you, but to make the matter clearer to everyone. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen elsewhere, I know several people who would demand such clarity, but it is something that is there in the atmosphere in Sahyadri.

In the beginning when I stated something like that and found my statement being cross-examined like that, it was an unnerving experience. Suddenly I realised that what I was saying didn’t make complete sense even to me, and when I looked deeper within me for what I was trying to say, I couldn’t find anything but emptiness. It was as if I was in a mechanical mode, saying what is generally said in such situations and accepting what I listen without closer analysis of what it means to me. Even now, I can’t say I’m comfortable with putting myself in a vulnerable position like that, but I’ve felt myself the power of the clarity it can give you and the connections it can help you build with other people.

The same goes for unconscious assumptions, especially in the area of teaching/learning- like doing a lot of practical work is better than doing a lot of theory, or a quiet classroom is necessary for learning to happen. For teachers, it is absolutely essential to be able to bring to the fore such naive ideas that we may have about teaching/learning situations, so that we can actually experiment and try to find out whether our assumptions are reasonable. But most of the time we are not consciously aware of most of the assumptions that we carry and it’s extremely difficult to actually unearth them. It requires a certain level of willingness to put oneself in a vulnerable position to be examined, but it’s really worth it.

I recently happened to watch a very interesting TED talk by Brene Brown, on vulnerability. http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

It seems like most of the time, most of the conversations we have with most people in our lives, don’t go deeper than the surface and we either don’t have the time or the impetus to penetrate further and establish more meaningful relationships.

An after thought:
I suspect this deeper reflection, scrutiny etc. is something that we (our brains) are not evolved for. If you look at much of our evolutionary history, until a few generations ago, our ancestors would have mostly interacted only with other members of relatively small, well knit tribes or other social groups with a lot of common cultural ground and a way of living that had been successful for thousands of years. In such a scenario, it made sense for our ancestors’ brains to be economical and make use of the common cultural grounding to make reasonable guesses and interpretations while communicating. When we do the same thing today, with people from such diverse backgrounds(even people from two generations in the same family), our communication ends up being superficial.