Re: Random vs. Systematic Growth

Steve Witham (
Sat, 26 Jul 1997 20:33:59 -0400

Anders says-

>I don't think it is possible or desirable to remove this accumulation
>of experiences into personal growth, but it seems to me that at
>present we have not attempted to support it. Some people (IMHO far
>too few) seek out experiences since they know they will grow from
>them (this was one of the reasons I started with ninjutsu), but we do
>not yet have a "science/art of personal growth". This is what I want
>to look into.

Thanks for clarifying.

>[...] Is there really no better way than to experience painful
>loss to develop a more mature worldview, a lesson which ought to be
>among the earliest for a long lived transhuman? In what ways can we
>make the personal growth and maturation process more efficient, less
>painful and more transhuman?

We *do* have a "science/art of personal growth". Any time anyone gives
anyone else an idea about how to grow or learn, that's an example of it.
Storytelling, books, personal conversation, art, performance, workshops...
There are all sorts of communication that are either intended to be growth
experiences in themselves or tell you how to have growth experiences.
Addressing your example, there are all kinds of stories intending to show
what happens when someone is too naive. A review of a book or a
report about a trip to a beautiful place, or other great experience, would
be an example of indirect growth information.

I think the meta-problem, though, is that we don't all agree on what
the most useful experiences are. So, you have a range of choice between
being a tyrant (say as a parent or teacher or cult leader) organizing the
experience of people under your control, or letting people (say children)
make their own choices among experiences given suggestions from you and
others. And for yourself you have a choice of how much to put yourself
into someone else's hands.

>From my point of view, what's wrong is the idea of school. It's a
predefined program that everyone is supposed to progress through, and
either because it's a bad idea from the start, or because it's just been
badly executed, it just comes to seem a rigamarole, a dues-paying,
a torture, an irrelevance, etc. A sweaty *course*. Think of all the
Schools of Education, all the people with PhD's in Education. Yeah,
we have a science of personal growth--a whole crock of it!

So because things are *too* organized, they end up being and seeming
*not* organized. If we faced the need for people to organize their
own lives and experiences,(instead of having them organized for them)
maybe we'd be more humble and produce better information and ideas about
how to learn. (And it might *seem* more like the society around us knew
something about learning (instead of trusting the teacher-experts).)

Life is necessarily more a kit than a course. People do
produce good information, experiences, guides and ways of stringing
it all together, but (I think) you have to realize the need to choose
not only your own experiences, but even the purposes your experiences
are supposed to prepare you for. When you look at it from that point
of view, it's almost amazing that anyone can say anything significant
to anyone else. So then you can better appreciate the learning
materials that are out there!-) Although I agree there's room for

Lately I've been learning to shed a deep assumption that's held me
back for a long time: a feeling that there was a key, a path, and
if only I would follow it, I'd be okay. It would just be a matter of
applying myself. Only this key was somehow being kept from me. So
I was being denied my rightful glory! Watch that kind of trap!

I lost the Gertrude Stein quote, something like:
"There ain't no way. Never was, never will be, and
the closest we'll ever get to a way is the idea that there ain't one."


--           Steve Witham          web page under reconsideration
"Philosophers have often attempted to analyze perception into the Given and
 what is then done with the Given by the mind.  The Given is, of course,
 Taken..." --Daniel Dennett