wisdom LO1040

Wed, 03 May 95 09:05:57 EST

Responding to Seeley, LO999.

It is difficult for most people to make new distinctions, or to realize
that they are suffering without them. For those who can make new
distinctioins, it is not a struggle, and so they wonder why others can't.
Perhaps it requires a fluid character and relation to the world. This is
intolerable for many who have to make the world work in the state it
appears to be.

'Intellectual bully' tactics are futile, once you accept that most people
are locked into their language. In taking a different route you give up
many satisfactions, but other satisfactions are possible.

Two people I know have an uncanny ability to learn languages. Both were
once language teachers. One was a terrible bully who could not bear the
low abilities of students or peers. The other was hoplessly bored in his
first teaching job, but he found a way out of the frustration. He turned
his attention from language to the process of learning. That became a
lifelong fascination, and he became a great help to others.

Let me map this back to the problem of distinction resistance.
(Distinction makers don't do this well -- the connections are obvious to
them.) You want to speak well within a speaking community that exists
apart from the learners that you face. That group apart may be a
community that doesn't exist yet, one that exists among peers on the net,
or one that exists far off in another culture. For the learners to speak
as you do, they have to drop habits, make funny and embarrassing sounds,
and accept your corrections on faith. In a language class, the students
have agreed in some measure to try to learn and to accept your authority.
People in organizations have not made the same agreement, and on top of
this they are unbelievably slow at picking up new distinctions, compared
to your own ability. When you become impatient, they become resistant.

I've been working with a retired Army officer for over a year, and he has
made huge changes. Originally, he would accept only the rearrangement of
Pentagon slang, and would mutate the meaning of words to give snappy and
superficial answers for every situation. (There is relentless repetition
in the military, like jungle drums. Soldiers are constantly reassuring
themselves and maintaining cohesion.) Gradually, he saw depth in concepts
and could imagine that errors in thinking were possible. Now he is
building concepts and discovering nuances that I missed. He chides me for
not pressing certain points that I made a year ago and that turn out to be
crucial today. All I can say is that, by pressing them, the ideas would
have been made unrecoverable due to forceful rejection, and I would have
blown my relationships as well. He is amused to see me 'discover' things
in what others have said, nurture repetition of ideas, and after
irrevokable commitments had been made, I happen to find old articles in
my files that are just what we need for the write-up.

Sometimes I'm sad that I think so little and think so slowly compared to
graduate school. But there are problems there too, the one-idea people,
the distinction-without-a-difference people, etc.