Expert Knowledge is Passé; Long Live Masters!

Engaging with flow, created by any phenomenon, is an essential step that we take to create something new, which invariably amounts to an interpretation of our environment or surrounding triggered by noticing something from the higher levels of the mind that is less dependent on sensory inputs.

Why is this necessary?

Since our mind is a system consisting of complex networks it has memory like all other networks. Memory would then compel the network (our mind) to behave in very predictable patterns i.e. it would continue to behave the way it does unless the energy of the system is changed by design. It would mean that our response to any situation would stay the same unless we add new energy to our existing network urging it be respond or behave differently.

That is the basic idea of engaging with the flow — to add new energy to our neural network to come up with a different response to a situation we are facing in the moment.

But that is tricky business. Much more tricky than we might care to imagine. It is because we must notice in quick succession (almost as quick as clearly noticing a ten digit telephone number) for our neurons to get energized enough to rise above their critical threshold limit to create harmonious oscillations, helping us to create new knowledge and response. Fortunately, our neurons, under this situation of noticing different aspects of a phenomenon in quick succession, produce different frequencies from moment to moment, which helps to create new responses. However, to produce useful and new harmonious frequencies our mind also needs to be supported by a healthy relaxation oscillations. Relaxation oscillations help us absorb new learning. Relaxation oscillation in the brain is something like this — neurons slowly absorb energy and then quickly release the energy. This new release of energy helps neurons to jump over their critical threshold limit to create harmonious oscillations.

Let us understand this process by some live examples.

For example, Sachin Tendulkar is considered the ‘god’ of cricket. For him, captains and bowlers of rival teams have a hard time setting a field to hold him down. He always tends to find the gaps too easily against any type of bowling. It is easy to imagine that he is quickly noticing so many aspects of the phenomenon — the bowler, his run up and stance, his delivery, speed of the ball, trajectory of the ball, movement of fielders, etc in quick succession (really quick since the ball is traveling at a speed of nearly 100 km/hour). Within that time he decides where and how to place the ball to get runs, which is invariably between the gaps in the fielding.

Or take Ravi Shankar, the great musician, who plays so intuitively. To me intuition is nothing but the same process as described above, where new harmonic oscillations are produced with the help of relaxation oscillations.

Or say Michel Angelo who saw entrapped figures trapped in uncut stones waiting to be freed by his hands.

There is one thing that is common to all of them which sets them apart from the rest. They all intuitively find the gaps or the existing imperfections in the present moment with their uninhabited awareness to reach their goal. This is because all human minds by default are goal oriented since human consciousness is more temporal than spatial. They improvise their games based on those gaps or existing imperfections in the most intuitive way — no copy book styles for them. They have learned the rules of their games so well that they now break them with impunity by mastering the way to trigger relaxation oscillations at will. This process of engagement is played over and over in whatever game masters choose to play. Games differ but the process of engagement does not.

This is what innovation, improvisation, improvement, creating new knowledge is all about.

The Japanese have a name for it. They call it Wabi -Sabi, which means understand the imperfection in a given situation and improve upon it to make it stronger and more reliable.

The Chinese have a name for it. They call it Shan Zhai, which originally means balancing numerous resistances, see what is possible to be done cheap and effectively, start small and then grow in strength.

The Indians have a name for it. They call it Juggad, which means understand what is to be done, start with whatever is available at hand, go with the flow and build up over time.

How would this be useful in present times?

Today, expert knowledge (essentially a knowledge bank) is sold in the market as a commodity that is continually being sold at lesser and lesser price wiping out premiums that they once commanded. It is so since expert knowledge is increasingly being converted to cheap ordinary stuff through algorithms. In some fields of human activity the value of expert knowledge is almost zero — given freely over the internet. Then how are we to survive in the present situation. It definitely calls for a new skill – the skill of mastery, where new knowledge can be created moment to moment. This amounts to present moment responses to a changing situation. People who can really do that are priceless and can still command a premium in today’s market place.

Such skill of mastery basically calls us to be in touch with one’s essential nature. Gregory Bateson reminds us of this fact when he said, “When man lost touch with nature, he lost touch with himself.” Simply stated, “losing touch with himself” is disengagement – a phenomenon that is so common in our professional world.

This is the only way to create a good sustainable future for all since, “The future is never empty, never a blank space to be filled with the output of human activity. It is already colonized by what the past and present have sent to it.” (Fry 1999)

How do we develop that is the question? Understanding that involves deep learning. And deep learning is done by power of engaging with the flow of the moment.

Ben-hur, Flow & Enlightened Skillful Actions

Ben-hur, till this day, continues to remain one of my all time favorite films — a timeless classic.

Over the years, I have seen this movie over and over again – so many times that I have lost count of it. Not only that – I took care to show the movie to my sons when they were young. Lo behold! it captured their hearts too — just as it did when Dad showed me this film when I was a young boy.

However, for some reason, one scene stands out in this remarkable movie — the chariot race — unforgettable. Even now, I have goose-flesh recalling that scene. There was something mysterious that pulled me again and again to view it with riveted attention. It is said to be the greatest chariot race ever put on a film.

What draws us to this race? Was it the rare dash of brilliant cinematography? Was it the charisma of Judah Ben-hur played by an equally charismatic personality, Charlton Heston? Or was it the cruel, cunning but enigmatic character of Messala played by Stephen Boyd? May be everything was too good for anyone to miss. However, it took me years to get to the essence that made the ‘chariot race’ the ‘chariot race’. It was about ‘flow‘.

In recent years, much has been written and discussed about flow, forming various views, interpretations, re-interpretations and perspectives, the most famous of which came from Mihaly Csikszentmihalhi, —  informing researchers and practitioners alike.

To me, being in the flow, the source of greatest human happiness and creativity, is the other name of being enlightened and skillfully acting from an enlightened state, where attention, awareness, learning and creativity effortlessly merge altering experience of time and space.

An enlightened state of ‘flow’ may be characterized by the following:

1. It is without a preformed image of any kind — “image-less“.

2. In such a flow, a person is equipoised to take any direction at will but chooses a direction based on the context and not travel the path dictated by a pre-determined plan — “direction-less“.

3. Actions in a flow are born in empty space; carried out in an empty space and die out in emptiness — “emptiness“.

4. Meaning in a flow is only generated through interactions set against a rich backdrop of context; else there is no meaning — “meaninglessness“.

5. Dialectic movement in flow is created by the existence of intensely focused attention on specific details and defocused attention on general details.

Coming back to the chariot race we are privileged to witness all of those. The crowd roars with expectation. The elites, headed by the Roman Governor of Judea, is restless to see Messala, a Roman, win against Judah Ben-hur flouting all ethics. Individual participants, pitted against each other, are wary of each other’s guile and tactics. The outcome is uncertain. But within all that din and commotion Judah Ben-hur stays image-less, alert, equipoised to take the right step as the situation demands, doesn’t go ahead with a predetermined plan, respects the emptiness of uncertainty of the event yet forges ahead with the meaning created by years of bitter interactions between him and Messala reflected by Ben-hur saying — “this is the day, Messala,” before the start of the race. During the race, Ben-hur acts effortlessly – being one with his horses – without losing a moment’s focus, keeping the din of the crowd and the count of the laps in the distant horizon of his mind.

That is a fine example of enlightened action by an enlightened human being in flow — bringing happiness and rewards in its wake, without expecting any.

No doubt, Pontius Pilate, Roman Governor of Judea (played by Frank Thring), while crowing Judah Ben-hur as the winner of the game, tells the crowd, “I crown your God.”

God indeed — a human in ‘flow’.

A beauty to behold.

 

Related Posts:

1. Aroma of Darjeeling Tea

2. A Network of Fragmented Selves

3. Quantum Theory and Nemetics

4. Winning Anywhere – the Power of ‘SEE’.