Landmark Education and the Landmark Forum

June 16, 2008

Transformation and Language

Filed under: inspiration — Tags: , , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 4:49 pm

I was reading today about how this woman won a prize for her paper on global transformation — It was actually a part of a Landmark Education course in their Wisdom division. The paper itself was very interesting — It talked about how much of how we create our world is in language, and that our current language is inadequate for shifting our current paradigm of ‘you or me’ to one of ‘you and me’ since our language is almost by defintion exclusionary.

One thing I want to say about the idea of the world being created in language — I think some people misidentify this idea as some sort of magical thinking. What I see is clear is that the way the world occurs, the way it seems to us, is created in our speaking, and that how the world occurs then influences our actions, which then alters physical reality itself.

Anyhow, better than me talking is to read what this woman wrote. Here’s excerpts from her paper:

Would a transformed world look much like the one we have now? Would we refer to things the same way, use the same words, reason using the same principles developed thousands of years ago by Aristotle? Or would a transformed world look, sound, and feel different? Would we interact with it differently? To the extent that the world our senses perceive will always be “just what’s so,” but the world in which we be is shaped by our language, then perhaps to transform the world concomitantly requires us to transform the language we use to describe and create it. Otherwise, are we simply pouring transformed wine into old conceptual bottles?


The idea that language shapes our reality has been most forcefully and controversially proposed by Benjamin Lee Whorf and modified by Edward Sapir. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that “the structure of a human being’s language influences the manner in which he understands reality and behaves with respect to it” (Whorf, 1956, p. 23). In other words, language indicates what is important to perceive from the vast source of stimuli that comprise reality. Language shapes and delineates our perceptions, tells us which details to attend to. Without such a mechanism to weed out the important from unimportant stimuli, we would be constantly overwhelmed and unable to “behave with respect to reality.” When I use the term “language” I mean the entire meaning-making process, including speaking, listening, and interpreting within a particular context. My focus in this paper, however, is on the signs we use (spoken or written).

When we say we are working to transform the world, which aspects of it are we attempting to transform? Trees will still grow up towards the sun; snow will still fall down from the sky in a transforming world. I contend that we are transforming our perceptions and understanding of that world as mediated by language. Given that I’ve heard people say that they want a world that works for everyone, a world in which no one is left out, where every voice is heard, that we’re all connected, that there is abundance for all, that peace prevails, I suspect that the world we want to transform is a world that we perceive to be out of harmony, fraught with violence, fragmented, scarce, and falling apart. In such a fragmented, disharmonious world, who wouldn’t feel that their primary task is simply to survive (Wolf, 2007)? What is the source of such experience of the world? Arjuna Ardagh suggests that it comes from a sense of separation: “What have we come to accept as the default state of being human?” he asks, then answers, “Most agree that human consciousness is characterized by an unnatural sense of separateness, a sense of a ‘me’ and a ‘not me.’ We act as though we are separate from the source itself, from the divine. On the basis of this feeling of separation stands everything else that feels abhorrent to the heart—child abuse, domestic violence, people lying to and cheating each other, environmental degradation, war. All of these things arise from this feeling of ‘me’ and ‘them’ as separate, or ‘me’ and ‘the planet’ as separate” (Ardagh, 2007, p. 215). In my listening of the aforementioned ways that people want to transform the world, I hear a yearning to bring back an understanding of the world’s wholeness and connectedness. How can we do that if this unnatural sense of separateness is entrenched in our very language?

From Either/Or to Both/And

To transform a structural aspect of language, let us investigate two simple function words, “and” and “or.” “And” combines and “or” separates. In everyday use, both functions are absolutely necessary. What passes under the radar, however, is that our logic is weighted towards “or”—towards distinction rather than conjunction. For centuries our conceptual system has been grounded in a structure based on either/or, with both/and just out of reach except to a few poets, philosophers, and mystics. This structure served us well for survival purposes: it facilitated distinguishing friend from foe, edible from poisonous, and predator from prey. However, modern science has shown us recently that the either/or structure is not always accurate (e.g., light is both a particle and a wave). Although sages have long glimpsed a world based on the both/and structure, it has been viewed as metaphorical rather than real. Science has now shown its reality.

I am not suggesting that we replace either/or relationships with both/and relationships, as the either/or distinction serves a useful purpose. I am suggesting that we break its bonds on our thinking and go beyond the polarization it engenders. I am proposing that either/or be seen as a subset of both/and, not in opposition to it.

In other words, both/and encompasses and includes either/or in a “both/and” type of relationship. To bring this to life, consider, for example, that you can be either Democrat or Republican, but a world that works for all must work for both Democrats and Republicans.

There’s much more to this essay, and it’s all fascinating, but I’m not going to steal someone’s entire paper–Anyone interested should read the entire thing at the website of the author, Lisa Maroski.


May 30, 2008

Son of Inspiring Quotes

Filed under: inspiration — Tags: , , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 9:41 pm

“The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.”


“Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world.”

–Helen Keller

“Every man goes down to his death bearing in his hands only that which he has given away.”

–Persian Proverb

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

–Theodore Roosevelt

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

–Albert Einstein

“Never lose an opportunity to see anything that is beautiful. It is God’s handwriting – a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, every fair sky, every fair flower.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.”

–Carlos Casteneda

100 Monkeys

Filed under: inspiration — Tags: , , , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 1:35 am

The 100 monkeys story is perhaps the most famous tale of how a new paradigm takes hold.

Back in 1952, scientists on the island of Koshimo dropped sweet potatoes in the sand for the monkeys native to the island to eat. The monkeys liked the potatoes, but they didn’t always like the taste of sand and dirt. Then one young monkey got the idea of washing a potato in a nearby stream before eating it. Over the next six years, more and more of the monkeys on the island learned to wash their potatoes before eating them.

Then, the legend goes, when about the 100th monkey began washing its potatoes before eating them, monkeys on an entirely different island were observed washing potatoes. The idea was supposed to be that when a certain tipping point was reached, an idea would almost magically catch on.

The 100th monkey story was controversial–Some people argued for it; others dismissed it as magical thinking. From what I’ve read, the truth of the 100 monkeys is neither the magic that its proponents claim, nor the myth that its skeptics insist upon. Instead, the truth is both more realistic and more interesting.

The evidence is apparently unclear as to whether monkeys on other islands began washing their food at the same time many monkeys were doing so on Koshimo. What is clear is that the idea began to take off on Koshimo, and that the young monkeys in particular almost entirely adopted the practice–Some older ones did; many did not. However, them young monkeys taught their offspring, so that the next generation was very strongly a generation of potato washers.

What is far more interesting to me, and rarely talked about in the 100th monkey story, is that after washing most of the monkeys had been washing their potatoes, they began washing their wheat; then they began bathing and swimming; then they began finding other food in the water. In short, using the water to wash potatoes led them to a whole paradigm shift where water become an important resource for the monkeys.

Whether the ideas caught on through a collective unconscious phenomenon or whether they were simply learned from watching other monkeys is not the point. The point is that an ideological breakthrough took place, and it caused other breakthroughs and new possibilities for the monkeys that no one predicted. The effects of a paradigm shift, which to me is what Landmark Education and the Landmark Forum are in large part about–shifting one’s paradigm to see new possibilities hidden from one’s view–Can be enormous, yet invisible at the time the shift is taking place.

April 15, 2008

Inspiring Quotes

Filed under: inspiration — Tags: , , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 7:24 pm

I’ve put together a bunch of quotations and poems that both speak to what Landmark Education is about and also embody my personal philosophy of life!

  “Only to the extent that man exposes himself over and over again to annihilation can that which is indestructible arise within him. In this lies the dignity of daring. Thus, the aim of practice is not to develop an attitude which allows a man to acquire a state of harmony and peace wherein nothing can ever trouble him. On the contrary, practice should teach him to let himself be assaulted, perturbed, moved, insulted, broken and battered – that is to say, it should enable him to dare to let go his futile hankering after harmony, surcease from pain, and a comfortable life in order that he may discover, in doing battle with the forces that oppose him, that which awaits him beyond the world of opposites.”

–Karl Graf von Durckheim

 “And leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relationships where everything seems clear, I went down into my inmost self, to the abyss whence I feel dimly that my power of action emanates. But as I moved further and further away from the conventional certainties by which social life is superficially illuminiated, I became aware that I was losing contact with myself. At each step of the descent a new person was disclosed with me of whose name I was no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration because the path faded from beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet, and out of it came–Arising I know not from where–The current which I dare to call my life.”

–Teilhard de Chardin

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                    i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

–ee Cummings

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

–Derek Walcott

“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.”

–ee Cummings (again!)

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