Monday, May 18, 2009

Success Vision

So, I did make it after all.

Last night I began teaching another of my slightly "out there" experiments in teaching: the Success Vision Course - using Alexander's discoveries to generate temporal awareness so that we can, moment by moment, make the choices that guide us towards the successful vision we generate of our future. This is a uniquely human capacity.

I wonder if Betsy the cow begins every morning with a highly developed temporally conceived plan for the day? "Oh, first I'll go down to the bottom meadow and get some of that tall grass before bloody Alfred eats it all, then I'll head off to the creek for a chat with Phyllis (unless she's overslept again the wretched old cow) and… oh yes! Now I remember: I have an appointment with Mad Fred at the North side gate at lunch-time.."

I wonder. I can't get inside a cow's mind, but I doubt this kind of "plan" is driving Betsy's choices moment to moment. Yet it is possible for us to function this way - to think a thought (in the form of consciously created plans/visions) rather than have thoughts thinking me (in the form of reactions to environmental conditions). Successful people mostly make decisions quickly, but change their mind slowly; whereas unsuccessful people often find coming to a decision difficult, but are changing their mind all the time.

To use temporal awareness successfully, we do first need a plan. The plan does not have to be concrete - like the S.M.A.R.T. goal system (goggle it) - it can also be ontological: developing a state of patience, tolerance, generosity, enthusiasm etc. What is essential is the necessity of our recollection of the 'success vision' acting as a guide for the choices we make within the forever moving critical moment of the present…

If a man knows not what harbor he seeks,
any wind is the right wind.
-Seneca

The Vision Success course was partly inspired by an passage from Alexander's Universal Constant of Living where he wrote:

"The employment of inhibition calls for the exercise of memory and awareness—the former for remembering the procedures involved in the technique and the proper sequence in which they should be used, and the latter in the recognition of what is happening. In the process both potentialities are developed and the scope of the use of both gradually increased. Moreover the experiences thus gained not only help in developing and quickening the recalling and connecting memory, but cultivate what I shall call the motor-sensory-intellectual memory."

That is basically the foundation for the course. These two facilities—awareness and memory—operate in tandem to inform our choices moment by moment. Dear Betsy (the cow remember?) has wonderful awareness in terms of present time – animals are often admired by us for their capacity to be in the here and now – but I suspect possesses a very poor ability to learn and adapt by means of utilizing creative memory to inform the present.

From a totally different perspective, but basically alluding to the same ideas, is this extract from "Burnt Norton", the first of the "Four Quartets" by T. S. Elliot (interestingly written in 1943, much the same time Alexander was writing UCL quoted above):

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present. Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the page which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose garden.

I was told, back in the 70's, that this quote was inspired by Alexander's work. I can't remember who told me, and it surely is some kind of nonsense, but nonetheless I feel some kind of continuity between these two ideas, some deeper truth that all things are existing as possibilities, and will be if we are, and can never be what we are not.

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