30 December 2009

Learning from I-Ching Part 09 4 蒙 Naive - Learning

Life-Long Learning:
"4 蒙 Naive - Learning" hexagram is formed from Mountain trigram at the top and Water trigram at the bottom. Water trigram also represents danger. Meeting danger, one needs to stop first.  蒙 stands for naive, blur, lack of understanding, and in the dark. Once encountered the water danger, we will be at a loss for what to do. The moral teaching is about learning - lifelong learning. Learning to gain understanding and know-how to cross the water safely. If one does so, one will process smoothly ahead.

The picture of the mountain over water also signifies the rich potential underground water needs to burst out to create the streams that benefit living. Developing the hidden potential and talents to be useful in the teaching of this hexagram.

Moral Attributes:
  1. 亨: smooth unobstructed flow. Must adopt the middle of path righteous way.
  2. 匪我求童蒙,童蒙求我。Literally, it is not me seeking the naive; it is the naive seeking me. There is a famous saying that "we can bring the horse to the water but cannot force the horse to drink". Learning cannot be forced by the teacher. The student must be self-motivating and want to learn.
  3. 初噬告,再三渎,渎则不告。 The first question will be answered. But if one asks again and again without sincerity, it is insulting to the teacher and no answers will be given. There is a difference between a sincere question to clarify a lack of understanding and a cynical question that doubt the capability of the teacher. Such cynical questions are insults that can not be answered.
  4. 利贞。 Sincere seeking of knowledge and truth is good and beneficial.
  5. 象曰:山下出泉,蒙;君子以果行育德。Streams from the bottom of the mountain. The wise man must boldly build up his moral character through gaining wisdom and teaching wisdom.
Stage 1: Begin-Six: To open the eyes of the blind, one needs a model and discipline. Moving forward without understanding will lead to regrets.
We learn best when there are role models or examples for us to follow. Learning is a disciplined process of time and effort. If there is anything that we don't understand, we must have the discipline to pursue the answer until we fully understand it. A good way to learn is to draw a mind map or even better, a concept map. Learning occurs when we know how to classify or group things together. What are the similar attributes and what are the differences? Which is the parent and which is the child or maybe a siblings type of relationship is better. Should we go for refinement and create a subcategory? We must provide the answers to the 5W1H. I conduct a short course on "Creative and Visual Thinking for Breakthrough Ideas" that will explain the cognitive learning method of mind and concept mapping and innovative ideas generation.

Stage 2: Second-Nine: It is good to help the naive. It is good to have a good wife. Son is able to take responsibility for the family.
Once we have obtained an understanding of ourselves, we are then in a position to teach others. We should not despise the unlearned. We must accept them first so that they can have the mental attitude for us to teach them. Teaching others also enhances our learning and understanding. When we want to teach, we are more careful about what we learn. Interaction with the students also enhances our understanding. When one is mature, it is good to have a good wife as a help-meet - to make the man complete. A husband and wife grow up to greater wisdom when they have children and become father and mother. Parents adopting the sometimes hard discipline and sometime soft-encouragement will be able to bring up a son that can take care of the family responsibilities. The key job of parents is to bring up children that are capable of setting up families on their own. Having children with successful families on their own is a testimony of the wisdom of the Parents.

Stage 3: Third-Six: Do not marry a girl who is after money and has no self-control with proper conduct. Marrying such brings no benefits.
It is very interesting to note that in the hexagram of learning, wives are mentioned twice. It shows the importance of the roles that women play, as wives and as mothers, in the learning and education of their husbands and children. This is opposite to the conventional common Chinese saying that "women without education is good moral" and so many Chinese did not send their daughters to school. The ancient Chinese teaching however is very different. It emphasizes the contribution of women to a family. This is more like the Jewish tradition where both parents have the duty to educate their children. Such distortion that girls need not have an education probably set back the progress of the Chinese.

Stage 2 tells us to share our wisdom and be ready to get a good wife. Stage 3 shows that we are mature enough to start a family of our own. It tells us what kind of girl we should not marry. Be not be deceived by the beauty of the girl but be watchful of her inner values, especially toward money, and observe her conduct. Does she exercise self-control? Is she a show of, impulsive, and others? Be observation.

Stage 4: Fourth-Six:  Trapped in folly brings regrets and frustration.
Dov Seidman in his book "How" has a Hill of Knowledge chart showing an M-shape curve.  In the beginning, our competence increases with time and effort in learning - represented by His 'B' grade students. However, after a while, we seems to get confused - the more we learned the more felt we don't understand - represented by his "C" grade students. Those who will break through the confusion arrive at the master level represented by his "A" grade students. Stage 4 learning is like the "C" grade students. We seem to be confused as we learned. We felt trapped. At this point, we should persist. We may need help, if we can, find a teacher to enlighten us and bring us up to the next hill of mastery. Giving up will end up like a 'C' grade, worse than before.

(note: a typical learning curve for a fixed skill is an L-shape, one gets better as we practice and gain an understanding of a fixed skill. For advanced unbounded knowledge, like, beginner level 101, intermediate 201, advanced 301, etc level, I think the M curve is more appropriate).

Stage 5: Fifth-Six: Childlike Naive. Good.
Childlike learning, without prejudices, biased and baggage, and pure in motive, ever curious, is excellent for acquiring knowledge. The key reason we are stuck at the valley of the M-curve above is our preconceived and erroneous ideas. We unknowingly place restrictions on the things we are trying to learn. Some of our unknown assumptions or heuristics are blocking our understanding and stopping our progress. Remove those, back to the basics, be pure and we can make it. Unlearning is hard. Go back to the childlike stage, list down all assumptions, and constraints, and uncover our blind spots to help our progress.

The motivation for learning needs to be pure as a child. It is not for learning to harm or control others. It is learning to gain understanding per se.

Once also need to adopt the childlike eagerness to learn new things. When we have mastered a new thing, we need not stop there. We need to continue to renew our learning and acquire new knowledge. In the early stage of learning, we make the strange thing familiar. In the latter stage of learning, we need to make the familiar strange, so that we may break out into new territories. 

Stage 6:  Attack Folly. Don't use learning for bad (original: robbers). Use learning for good to remove bad.

Finally, what is the objective of learning and acquiring knowledge and understanding? Is it not to be put to good use for the benefit of society? Acquiring knowledge to do bad things is bad. It is better not to have learned. Education should be more than just acquiring knowledge but building of moral character as well.

  1. Learning to break folly and darkness.
  2. Learning is a lifelong process.
  3. Learn to be more responsible and capable so as to contribute to society through your life, family, or your business.
The finer wisdom from the six stages are:
  1. learn by following good examples
  2. learn by practicing and growing up by taking responsibility and caring for others such as having a wife and family
  3. learn to discern – choose your life partner carefully
  4. learn to master level. Get helps if stuck; don’t quit (you are at the stage of the more you know, you more you seem to be confused. Don’t quit but continue for a breakthrough understanding). Make the strange familiar.
  5. learn to innovate. Be childlike, have curiosity, purity, and eagerness. Make the familiar strange for innovation.
  6. learn without ending. Use your learning for good and not for evil
For a comparison, see BLOOM’S REVISED TAXONOMY shows the level of knowledge/learning, from the basic of recalling facts to higher levels of applying, analyzing, and judging to the highest level of creation of new knowledge. I-Ching shows the how and the increasing level of learning.
  1. Remembering - Recalling information.
  2. Understanding – Explaining ideas or concepts; Interpreting, summarising, paraphrasing, classifying, explaining
  3. Applying – Using information; Implementing, carrying out, using, executing
  4. Analyzing - Breaking information into parts to explore understandings and relationships; Comparing, organizing, deconstructing, interrogating.
  5. Evaluating – Justifying a decision or course of action; Checking, hypothesizing, critiquing, experimenting, judging
  6. Creating – Generating new ideas, products, or ways of viewing things; Designing, constructing, planning, producing, inventing.

Lim Liat (C) 2008-2011

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