First Recording

This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.


It is a peculiar experience, the realization that you are fully and holistically engaged–investing the greater part of your time, energy, and potential–in rediscovering old truths. But, I said that! But, I KNEW THAT! The initial flare of indignation as I learn that all the discoveries I’ve just made about my own nature have already been documented. But, this isn’t new?! A sense of humor is often required. Because I already knew that, didn’t I? I only had to learn it again, for myself this time. Come to grips with it, to incorporate it, to come to my own conclusions about it, to make it mine.

The struggles of experiential learning. Moments like these (and a big one I had one last night while reading Rogers) are humbling. They make me question my methods. To entertain the possibility that there are simpler, more expedient ways of acquiring the knowledge I’m looking for. Surely, I could take a class, watch some YouTube videos, even skim a few textbooks. But, I don’t. (I don’t care for textbooks, as a general rule, anyway. Too filtered. Too full of other people’s biases.) And, it occurs to me that the knowledge I’m in search of really isn’t of the kind that’s disseminated that way. I’ve got to get intimate with these ideas. Got to live them. I have to be able to recognize their roots in my own nature and be able to apply them to myself, to experiment and get creative with them, or I will not grow as a result of my learning. If I do not learn experientially, it is only a half-hearted endeavor. If my efforts do not impact how I relate to myself and others, then they are tragically incomplete.

What is most personal is most general. – Carl R. Rogers

I am forced to pause for a moment. Is experiential learning the birthplace of innovation–at least potentially? As we make personal others’ ideas–imbue them with our own style, our own life–do we not invite the possibility of uncovering new dimensions of a more universal experience? Greater points of connection by way of expanding our own uniqueness? And, are the ideas themselves, then, not also changed? Indeed, I find the more I am myself here on The Used Life–that is, the more I articulate thoughts and other inner experiences that I consider “different,” “peculiar,” “odd,” “unique,” even to the degree that they are potentially unrelatable–the more profoundly my words seem to resonate with others. The more feedback I get, the more thoughtful, insightful dialogue that follows. Rogers is right.

An observation: had to find roots in my experience even for the simple notion, The more I am myself, the more I am like everyone else. Do most people do this? Look for a litany of personal proof to validate even age-old bits of wisdom. This seems to be part of the fabric of my makeup. Question everything. Believe what experience tells you. Intuition, also. Itself the voice of an amalgam of experience. Find wisdom with your bare hands.

But, all of this talk of experiential learning makes me think of the importance of style. Of the importance of infusing one’s own unique vision into a conversation about older, universal truths. Style, in this case, is of the utmost importance. For those of us who learn not only by doing, but also by creating, freely playing with style is an indispensable tool. I find myself growing fonder of journal-entry-style posts for this reason. They are reflective of process. They give the impression of being a first recording. A freestyle. The birth of an insight or an intimate view of an internal struggle. It is their indeterminateness, the exercise of poetic judgement, that makes them interesting. I ask myself why all students aren’t encouraged to write like this. I suspect it is a format that’s conducive to learning experientially. To consider new ideas in relation to oneself without the interference of structure or unnecessary formalities. Existentialists say this kind of learning takes courage. I find “courage” to be a curious word to describe it. Yet, I notice, in those moments in which I venture outside of myself in the hopes of toying with the unknown, I experience a faint and ever-so-pleasant sense of daring.

18 thoughts on “First Recording

  1. That is so brilliant! Maybe because I had just recently realized the same thing – lol that when I am most myself, the more I am like others. But that’s the problem – too often we aren’t ourselves nor are others. We hang out on social media and see the fakery that all are striving for. We feel isolated and unlike anyone else and swear off social media because it isn’t us. Then in our act of rebellion, we are true to ourselves and we recognize bits and pieces of others in us, especially when we dare to reveal this true self publicly and people respond to us. Just talking off the cuff here…

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  2. Your post resonates with me. Cat Stevens sings, “from the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen.” If you look at the experts as being in their respective boxes, there is no reason one can’t use the boxes to construct whatever they wish, either with deep thought or with spontaneity, or with anything in between. The “Gifts from Psyche’s Garden” class has been a real eye opener. It’s based on Jungian analysis. Last week we looked at a series of slides of mandalas Jung’s patients did and called out impressions. One of the last slides we looked at was one Jung himself did. The bottom half shows an idyllic village, but disturbingly there were several weapons of war here and there in it. The top half showed him, sitting on what looked like a magic carpet, floating above it all with his mandala-like configurations. That picture tells me that Jung gave a lot to the world with his works — but still he separated himself. By giving oneself permission to use the blocks however we wish, the cosmos is ours. Thank you for your inspiration!

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    1. Thank you very much! That class sounds really interesting…and I am about to go searching for that mandala you mention. I am curious to see it. You’ve also got me thinking of a Maslow quote (paraphrasing as I don’t have the book handy) about humans being the only species that has to work to be themselves. And you’re right, it’s all in giving ourselves the permission to do it. 🙂

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  3. I have enjoyed reading this very much. And I relate my experience of reading this post to what came to mind while I was reading: you seem to be speaking about how important it is for you to have an EXPERIENCE while reading (and perhaps also while writing). I always have an experience while I read your writing, by which I mean that your posts do something mysterious to me that remains, at least for a while, beyond words. And this is what I hope from everything I read, which is probably why I am a very selective reader and have my favorite authors/thinkers and subjects. You seem to be saying that whether you are reading Maslow, May, or Rogers, or another of your favorite authors, you want the text in your hands to affect you in such a way that you become creatively one with it, which then allows you to be creative with it in your own way. Sorry if I am way off here, but I want to try to put into words how your post has affected me. And style seems to be essential to having a reading EXPERIENCE. We have exchanged thoughts on the subject of style. It is an author’s style that does something to me. It’s your style of writing that does something to me while I am reading one of your posts. Good job!

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    1. Oh, there’s so much to think about here! 🙂 Yes, I do prefer to have an experience when reading. (In fact, it’s difficult for me to finish a book if I can’t connect with it early on.) With regard to my favorite authors and thinkers, it’s certainly a matter of voice, a sense of the author’s personality. The work itself is animated, with a life of its own. And, yes, the feel of it lingers. You’ve got me thinking about my own words a bit differently…when considering the “experiential” aspects of learning, I hadn’t thought too much about my sensitivity to the authors’ language, etc., but in fact, I’d never want to engage with their ideas without that encounter—the little ecstasies (best term I can think of) of engaging with the work. Of all of the three psychologists you mention, my engagement with Maslow is the most totalizing, the most absolute. His ideas are alive to me. Dynamic, like an organism—so much can be done with them. I suspect the way he writes about his ideas is partially (if not mostly) responsible for making me feel that way….Now, a question (or two) for you: Do you experience the spoken word as intimately as the written word? That is, can a dynamic speaker move you as powerfully as an artful writer? And, do you prefer to only read physical books, as opposed to ebooks, for reasons of aesthetic engagement?

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      1. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment, and it felt a little awkward when I mentioned in my comment those psychologists whom you have written about. I could have just mentioned Maslow. Communicating in this way isn’t always easy. In any case, I am the same as you in that it is hard for me to finish a book if I can’t connect with it early on. In response to your questions, I do not experience the spoken word as intimately as the written word. There are occasionally speakers who move me deeply. Yet, if something I’ve read moves me, I can return to it, not on a screen, or listening to it, but with the book in my hands, sentence by sentence, or word by word, over and over again, if I wish. And I’ve already answered your second question. I read only physical books. My books are very valuable to me. I became spoiled in Spain and learned to appreciate quality hardcovers. I am very careful with my books, and I also write in them, although carefully. They’re part of me. Thanks for the questions!

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      2. Thank you for responding to my questions. 🙂 I was curious because I, too, only read physical books. I’ve tried e-readers, but I can’t do it. I need the physical experience of the book in my hand, especially if it’s worn. I also love having a room full of books in my home. And, I am not moved by the spoken word in quite the same way, either. That’s not to say that I cannot be moved by a powerful speaker—I can be, and very much so—-but the experience is not the same. I think it’s, perhaps, because my imagination is not involved in the same way…I wanted to use Maslow as an example of someone whose ideas leap off the page at me. Always brimming with possibility. The others you mentioned are just as important (May, especially, and I’m enjoying Rogers so far), but the aesthetic experience of engaging with their work is entirely different.

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      3. Your thoughts help me remind myself that reading, for me, is all about involving my imagination in the experience. Thoughts hopefully follow. I also have a room full of my books. I feel very fortunate. This writing room is my second home.

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  4. “Without changing there is no learning” one of the primary mantras of experiential learning. Guided experiential learning using the tools of Reg Revans, Kolb, and George Kelly have been invaluable to me across a long life in terms of personal and professional development, as well as developing a wonderful team of educators in Nepal. But it needs real effort, discipline, and a positive mindset.

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  5. I am afraid I was presumptuous in referring to Rollo May and Carl Rogers as two of your favorite authors. I meant to use the word presumptuous in my last comment, but it escaped me in the moment of writing.

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    1. Oh, no, you’re not being presumptuous at all. I’m enjoying Rogers very much so far, and May is a huge favorite! I spent so many months writing about him. I’ve only stopped because I’ve made it clean through his body of work (journal articles and book chapters, not included).

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