Thursday, July 12, 2012

Communication is having others involved.

Communication is more than talking to others.  It is having them involved in a communication system that you're part of.

In good communication, others become your extended mind, and you improvise your thoughts in a way you alone cannot do.  The more others are involved, the more you think, and the better communication becomes.

This is like Budo performance: The less you do alone, the better; The more you have others involved, the better.

In this sense, my JALT talk at Matsuyama was a success.  The audience seemed to be entertained by my talk, and I was thoroughly entertained by the responses from the audience.

As far as I can see, we were all involved in a communication system that is larger than the sum of our individual consciousnesses. We enjoyed the experience of letting ourselves be led by the communication system, which seemed to have its own life.

It seemed to me that we all felt 'something' is going on among us (which I'm calling a 'communication system'), and that each of us was driven to produce our own response by that something.  We felt something larger than us, and that gave us a special pleasure of communion and communication.

I'd like to take some time from now to explore the possibilities which that experience has offered.  I want to try to give firmer forms to the thoughts that I had in the thought improvisation.  I'd like to express them in my writing, which is another communication style I do with words I write down.

Right now, I'd like to thank everyone that made my JALT talk possible and successful.   Thank you, John, in particular.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Do not let mind mind mind (Yes, deconstruction is what Zen is about)

What follows is an essay related to my presentation "SLA and Budo (Martial Arts): Extended, embodied cognition and practical implications for ELT" on July 8, 2012 at JALT Matsuyama.  The presentation is a revised version of my JALT Hiroshima Talk "Comparing Foreign Language Communication to Budo (Martial Arts)"; Arguments of "Movement of Budo (martial arts) and Luhmann's systems theory" are added).  The slides and handout for JALT Matsuyama talk is available below:


Do not let mind mind mind (Yes, deconstruction is what Zen is about)

Zen master Takuan left a verse on mind:

心に心 心許すな

A literal translation would be as follows:

Mind is the mind that confuses mind
Do not let mind mind mind

Apparently, this is meant to be deliberately bewildering to read  (Advise that implanted deconstruction in itself, as is often the case with Zen master's writings).

To clarify, I introduce the distinction between conscious mind and nonconscious mind. (For consciousness and nonconsciousness, please see my post on Damasio).

Conscious mind is the mind that confuses nonconscious mind
Do not let conscious mind mind nonconscious mind

This advice is quite valid from neuroscientific understanding that most of what we do is the result of nonconscious mind and that consciousness is what emerges out of nonconsciousness when nonconsciousness find a situation difficult to deal with.

However, consciousness can be divided into two types: core consciousness and extended consciousness.  Takuan's verse is particularly true with extended consciousness, which is beyond 'here and now' that the subject is experiencing.  Core consciousness, on the other hand, is the awareness that the subject is feeling emotions, and it may be a good interface between the world and the body.

Many Budo writings say negative functions of extended consciousness in performance.  But some also say that even core consciousness works negatively when it is fixated on a particular object.

Here are some examples. (To see the sources, please see the slides above)

"An arrow shooter shoots precisely when he is not conscious of shooting and shoots with an everyday mind." 
" The man of the Way is like a mirror, and he contains nothing in his body-mind and is clear; his mind is empty but lacks nothing. " 
"If your mind loses its balance by thinking, you hear but not listen, and look but not see.  It is because you have an object in your mind.  The object is an object to think about.  If the object leaves, then your mind becomes the empty mind and fulfills its purpose when necessary." 
"If your mind loses its balance by thinking, you hear but not listen, and look but not see.  It is because you have an object in your mind.  The object is an object to think about.  If the object leaves, then your mind becomes the empty mind and fulfills its purpose when necessary. However, if your learned problems go away from you mind, you unlearn everything you have learned, and when you do the skill, your performance will be fluent.  Your performance is not against what you have learned, and it accords with what you have learned without you being consciousness of it."

From these arguments, we may argue as follows:

(1) You don't need extended consciousness to perform well. 
(2) You may not even need too much core consciousness, for it is just an alert system for irregular patterns. 
(3) Nonconsciousness creates core consciousness to help itself to perform in a difficult situation. 
(4) Core consciousness invites (from autobiographical memory) extended consciousness to help itself in a very difficult situation.

To describe what is being taught to us (the content of instruction), I further introduce the concept of imported extended consciousness.  Imported extended consciousness is different from ordinary consciousness because it does not emerge from the mind/body of the subject; it is given from outside in the form of instruction by a teacher, for example.

Then we may argue as follows:

(5) Consciousness, either core or extended, does NOT create nonconsciousness, particularly imported extended consciousness! 
(6) Put your imported extended consciousness aside when you perform. 
(7) Imported extended consciousness is only helpful for reflective deliberation.

In a Japanese book on pedagogical grammar to which I contributed one chapter, I made a distinction between embodied grammar (grammar that constitutes language in the mind/body of a language user) and articulated grammar (linguistically expressed meta-description of embodied grammar).  I argued that pedagogical grammar is to be designed as a device to help the nonconcious mind/body of language learners to develop embodied grammar of the target language in it.  It seems that this argument of mine is quite congruent with the Budo sayings above.

My general belief is that the wisdom of Budo meets science and post-modernism.  I hope I can further explore the old tradition of my country from new perspectives.