From Linear to Loopy
In 1968, Doug Engelbart introduced something called a "mouse" before a group of mathematicians and hippies gathered in San Francisco. The computer mouse became more than just a pointing device; it changed the channels of consciousness and sold the illusion of information space i.e. the mouse brought information closer to hand. The ability to manipulate meant a hunger for more information and richer connections. Manipulation / Getting our hands dirty / Creativity = Openness i.e. Loopy.
How does innovation come about? By 'brain-storming', by turning things 'upside down', by creating new starting-points, by switching the environment, by exploration from anywhere to anywhere i.e. by engaging in loopy mental processes.
What are the best stories? Those with twists and turns and which conclude by making you look back and rethink the story's elements i.e. those which moved you into loopy recall.
Why was M. Night Shyamalan's first movie, Sixth Sense, so popular? Because the movie was a huge loop which tied the beginning and end together perfectly.
The three great inventions in the history of learning: 1. the Greek alphabet (800B.C.), 2. the printing press (15th century) and 3. the Internet (a couple of years ago). Today's 21st century learners are voracious learners cum players. (But) They value ideas for less their content or 'truthfulness' and more for their vortex of energy, vitality, joy and their ability to tickle the soul. Making the grade means more than making good grades. Rhythm is everything. They learn not by sitting still and listening, but by interacting and doing, hence game learning, team learning, e-learning i.e. by playing.
(This entire bulletin series will be playful, loopy, paradoxical and ambiguous: Does it bother you?)
The Japanese government controlled the export of Sony's PS2 game machine because it called it a "general-purpose product related to conventional weapons[i]". They had the jitters because in 1998, a North Korean submarine was captured by the South Koreans. The submarine's radar and global-positioning equipment were built from joysticks, game pads and play gadgets made by Japanese consumer-electronic firms.
Today's learners will be accessing and processing information very differently from the previous generation. The invention of writing led to the dominance of the left side of the brain and a general eclipse of right-brain values. Consider: In Malaysia, why is the Science stream reserved for the 'bright' students and the Arts stream for all the rest? In other words, why is calculus considered a more advanced form of high-school study than, say, drawing? Is it any surprise that the modern education system was modeled after linear, factory-produced manufacturing processes? [Insert child, go through stages 1 to 12, out comes a social product…]
Start from the Beginning
Deductive / Inductive Logic
"It doesn't make sense"
Get the Point?
Paradox / Provocation
"Let's make some sense out of it"
See the Picture?
Look at nature. How many straight lines do you see? How many right angles? Isn't life brimming with zig-zags, oxbows, razorbacks and curves? Does God appear to think straight? Systematic theology must point towards systemic theology or parabolic theology. Many of the Bible's stories and principles are far from absolutely logical:
· Want to be freed from Egyptian slavery? Sprinkle some lamb's blood on your door (Exodus 12:22-23)
· Want to conquer Jericho? Walk around the enemy fortress a few times and make lots of noise (Joshua 6:3-5)
Want to be the greatest? Be the least (Matthew 23:11)
Want to overcome your enemy? Let him slap your other cheek (Matthew 5:38-39)
Want to live? Die (Luke 9:24)
(And the list goes on)
Linear-fashioned theology must make room for an organic holistic banquet of narratives. Put linear and loop together and you get a helix (is someone thinking DNA?[iii])
Spiritual growth reflects organic growth more than mechanized processes. Like a tree, we grow from year to year, but we also experience cyclical seasons: progress, set-back, breakthrough, pruning, sorrow, rejoicing – year after year.
What would a loopy, spiraling, helical discipleship process look like?
***"Our traditional thinking is concerned with What IS. It isn't good at designing What CAN BE." Edward de Bono, Inventor of Lateral Thinking
1. List the ways in which Jesus taught his disciples (e.g. parables, symbol, sermons, etc.) – which are linear, which are loopy? (use the chart above) Now consider how YOU communicate (in office, with family, etc.) – what is your ratio of linearity/loopy-ness in thinking? Share this exercise with someone and discuss.
2. Think of something you wanted to know about God or theology (e.g. "How must the church deal with sin today?" or "Does God want Christians to be involved in politics?"). Now assume there are 4 people in your team-learning group – how would you go about assigning the research? What questions would you get each member to focus on? What sources – ancient and modern – would you get them to draw upon?
3. Turn to Psalms 23 and draw (or voice out) your impressions and feelings as you read it. Try to write your own psalm by mapping those images and feelings into new words.
4. Randomly generate a name from your mobile phone or computer – and pray for the person. Open the newspaper or news website, randomly pick an issue/event and pray for the victims or problems.
5. What are the benefits of attending a course entitled How To Improve Your Memory? Compare these with the benefits of learning How To Know Where To Find Things. Which course is more important for today?
6. A huge majority of Malaysian students learn by memorization. What if textbooks were to be banned from the school campus during exam days? What would be the consequences on the Malaysian education system?
7. "For Christians and the church to grow, the Bible should be outlawed." – how might this (provocative) statement make godly sense? (Hint: Think about underground Christians).
[ii] See http://www.wolfram.com/products/applications/fuzzylogic/examples/ for how fuzzy logic is used in classifying houses, representing age, choosing a job, image processing and so on.
[iii] A helix – the perfect combination of linear and loopy – is the model of DNA, the nucleic acids that contain and shape the human body's 30,000-40,000 genes and reside in the body's 70-100 trillion cells.
Alwyn Lau is a Researcher and Teacher at KDU College. Being an astute theological thinker, he is interested in theological methods, emerging theologies, as well as the relevance of the Christian faith to the emerging generation. Alwyn is also concerned about issues pertaining to education. He is presently studying for a Master of Business Administration degree after having his first degree in BScHons Economics (University of London, UK);. He blogs on http://www.alwynlau.blogdrive.com/.