Attention, participatory knowledge and play.

The below post was triggered while watching this video.

Ignore the clickbait title. The video is definitely worth watching. The graphics and the title are what it takes to grab people’s attention, these days. And ironically enough, the central message in the video is- Attention.

My post is about the same. About attention, embodiment, and the importance participatory knowledge. How book knowlege is handicapping us all.

The three legged race.

We’ve all played it in school. Hopefully. If not, what kind of posh school, did you go to? Or were you too posh for the school?

Legs make you go faster. Therefore, more legs, should make you even faster. Now the team has 3 legs each. Should be faster, no? It isn’t, you know that. And it’s funny to watch pairs of people who are especially mismatched struggle and swear and sweat and not get anywhere. They’ll fall, and the audience will laugh, and the participants will laugh too, especially if they’re children and they’re in it for fun. If it’s an over achiever , paired with someone who’s doing it for fun, it’s going to go badly. Only rarely will the over achiever have enough insight, compassion and people skills to form a working partnership with the other child. All the technical knowledge the child possesses will not work, unless the two of them learn to integrate the other into their actions. This can happen only through attention and participation.
That working partnership is based on unity of purpose.

They both want to have fun, they both want to win. And they’re both willing to communicate and listen to each other, and take feedback. Feedback can be verbal, or physical or implicit.

They’ll put their arms around each other. Turn themselves into a single unit. Coherent physically, and with unity of purpose. They’ll loudly count out a beat so that they can move the bound legs and the free legs at the same time. And they’ll race ahead.

Humans can do that. Even children can do that. It’s possible that children can do that better, because they’re having fun. They’re playing a game. The games adults play are more serious. They’re not cooperating. They’re manipulating, overpowering and working to bring the other person under their will. The games adults play last longer. Sometimes a lifetime. If you have to play a game all your life, it better be fun, for the both of you.

The 3 legged race ends in 50 meters. A few minutes. An adult game can go on for decades. The game can feel like an eternity or it can go by in a flash, if you’re having fun.

You have to put your arms around each other, count out a beat, and get in flow. And you have to remember that when falls, both will fall. You’ll have to laugh it off, dust each other off and get up and go again. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to laugh while your falling too.

If the mismatch is massive, the teamwork required will be much much more. But it’s not impossible.

Two children can turn into a coherent single unit, because they’re paying attention to each other. To the words, to the pressure of the other child’s arm across their shoulders. To the terrain they have to cross. The way the binding on their leg is giving them feedback about the other partners balance.
The ones that are distracted will fail. Attention is easier once they are in flow. It’s not that the ones who are distracted have no attention. It is that they can’t direct their attention to what is salient. What is important. What the priority is. Attention needs to be trained. And it needs to be trained through participation. Not through books and exams.

In games that adult pairs play, the same problem can occur. The members of the team might have different priorities. Or even if they have the same priorities, they may have ordered them differently.
The conflict can only get worse, if they don’t post attention to the most important thing in that team. The other partner. Time changes the partners. Time changes the game. The game changes the partners. And if they don’t pay attention to each other and the changes, there will be conflict. If there’s an opposition to inevitable change, there will be conflict.

Modern education, if we can even call it education, teaches us to place ourselves over everyone else. Maybe that’s good. But that doesn’t mean to the point of excluding all attention towards the people around us.

Are we now like this, because we didn’t play enough team sports as children? Are we now like this, because we’ve not participated enough? Because all, or most of our knowledge is propositional, technical, and not participatory?
If we haven’t been trained in acquiring participatory knowledge as children, if we haven’t been trained in paying attention to our own bodies, and minds, how are we going to pay attention to our partner’s? Do you think this is the end? How can you turn it around? Do you engage in a physical practice that teaches you to be more embodied? Do you have means of learning that are different from the current standard of reading from a book or watching a video? Do you participate? What team or community participation do you have in a physical practice?
Are you still a spectator? When do you plan to start participation? What are you going to participate in? What opportunities do you have?
Is it going to get better or worse, the way we’re headed?

Leave a Reply