Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-Telling Stories About Ourselves in the World
A College Seminar Course at Bryn Mawr College

Forum 10 - On tacit knowledge and language and ... deep play etc.

Name:  Anne, Haley and Paul
Subject:  "Attending From"
Date:  2002-11-18 15:39:51
Message Id:  3779

This week, while you're gathering data for your project on tacit knowing, we'd like you to post your thoughts about this *new* painting by Sharon Burgmayer (you can click on it to make it bigger):

What do you think this painting is saying that Sharon Burgmayer doesn't know she knows? In Polanyi's language, what was Sharon "attending from" when she made this picture?

Looking forward, as always, to hearing your thoughts--

Anne, Haley and Paul

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Reproducing Packet
Date:  2002-11-18 17:07:34
Message Id:  3781
When Paul, Haley and I met this afternoon, we realized, to our chagrin, that the remainder of the readings in the packet were missing their bottom "inch" of text. After a brief fling w/ the idea that we could have you experiment w/ "tacitly apprehending" what was omitted....I took the originals back to Professional Duplicating. They will re-copy the second half of the packet @ no charge. I'll pick them up tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon, and leave a dozen copies outside each of our offices by 4 p.m. You can fetch 'em as/when you get the chance--

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Name:  orah minder
Username:  ominder
Subject:  painting
Date:  2002-11-19 13:34:12
Message Id:  3788
I know the most beautiful thing is sunlight on water. Each fleck of light is so fleeting and yet the reflection pulls the sun into the water and holds her captive until she rests in the west. She wakes upon the world and imidiatly she is captive again on the water. She is stretched and spead, and broken into splinters of beauty upon the water and not until she arrives in the west can she again be whole. The water takes the beauty of the sun and rips it into sharp slivers that flicker and die in an instant, the water sucks the sun in and shatters her into fleeting life, each day. i sit, each day, feeling the heat of the sun and her broken reflection on my skin, and each day i know that the shattered sun, sprawled and pained on the water, is the most beautiful thing.
Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Color
Date:  2002-11-19 15:59:28
Message Id:  3796
There was an interest, in my class today, in Lakoff's discussion of color, and I promised further reading on the topic. You might check out

Color by Sharon Burgmayer

Color Theory from Brown University

Seeing Color from University of Aberdeen


Name:  Kim Cadena
Subject:  Unconscious Thought
Date:  2002-11-19 19:19:16
Message Id:  3797

Found this while looking for a paper topic. Go and try it out. The results might surprise you.

Project Implicit

Name:  Molly Cooke
Subject:  Discussion on Deep Play from class today...
Date:  2002-11-20 00:01:49
Message Id:  3801
Today we again discussed the matter of Deep Play in class. I have found this concept very exciting to explore because it liberated my way of making decisions. Sometimes I have been paralyzed from doing things that could potentially garner benefit because of my fear of possible negative consequences. The idea that my decisions should be playful makes the dire-ness of consequences less pressing. It also opens the door to discussion of ideas - playing with ideas. On this matter I have to agree whole-heartedly with Haley. Playfulness is very important.

Our class discussions have led away from the matter of playfullness however, and we have explored more sinister questions of Deep Play in suicide bombing, war actions, suicide as a result of mental illness and pornography. It was argued that because participants in these acts were taking a calculated risk with regard to their beliefs that it constituted a 'play': a leap of faith.

I disagree, but only now realize my reasoning is personal. Let me explain. There has been a tacit assumption in our discussions that Deep Play is a desireable practice; that we can use this concept in our approach to assignments, our studies, our lives. It is therefore, at least partially, virtuous. This is agreeable to me. However, if that is the case, and if suicide, war and pornography are forms of Deep Play, it follows that there is also some virtue in suicide, war and pornography. Because my ethical code tells me that these things are wrong to a large degree, I must eschew any concept that ambiguously affirms them.

The concept of Deep Play, therefore, only has value to me if it is closely pared with my personal ethical code. Unfortunately, not everyone follows my personal ethical code and even so, my code isn't complete. Many people in this world do not have a sound enough grasp on 'the rules' to know when and where they can be pushed. Without this paring of Deep Play and Ethics, are we adequately challenging ourselves to do what is right? know what is right? However much I appreciate the liberation Deep Play has introduced to me, I recognize that it cannot be a guide for my behavior.

Name:  Abigail Bruhlmann
Subject:  painting
Date:  2002-11-20 08:16:31
Message Id:  3803
I suppose knowing to sit still while watching the soft glow of the moon and its wavy reflection in the water is a form of tacit knowing. It just seems appropriate that nature in its purest, simplest, and most beautiful form just needs some r-e-s-p-e-c-t, minus the jukebox. Just as knowing to watch the spectacle is tacit, this is also the reason why the girl sits quietly on the shore instead of chasing after the reflection or the moon itself. She isn't thinking about any of this while sitting in silence. She just does what comes naturally, which leads me to think that if we analyze every aspect of life, we might lose sight of what is truly important and we'll miss the beauty that lies beyond the greedy grasp of our words.
Name:  Beth Ann Lennon
Username:  blennon
Subject:  painting
Date:  2002-11-20 13:45:12
Message Id:  3804
When I view this painting in relation to tacit knowledge I think of the different ways individuals would interpret it. It takes a certain level of tacit knowledge to conclude that this is sunset, or a full moon. Or if a person were to say that the character was dispondent or simply resting, or perhaps meditating. No matter what you interpret to be the events within this painting I believe that it takes a certain amount of tacit knowledge to identify what is held within it.
Name:  Bridget
Subject:  Painting
Date:  2002-11-20 14:14:37
Message Id:  3807
The colors of this painting make me think that it's during the day, but the sun is low on the horizon, which makes it either morning or evening. I guess the idea of clear day makes it more comfortable and takes away some of the mysteriousness of the biblical pool where Jesus healed people, but the sun has to be where it is because it's the focus of the painting. Depending on how religious the painter is or how religious her subconscious is it could be a symbol of God or hope or cheerfulness. If the person and the tree are covered the painting looks very cheerful. Why is the tree bare if flowers are blooming? That part of the painting makes it look more mysterious. That the person is sitting on a branch that clearly fell off the tree seems very symbolic but I can't really describe what I think it means.
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Check it out
Date:  2002-11-20 14:16:05
Message Id:  3809
Name:  Kristen Coveleskie
Subject:  picture analysis
Date:  2002-11-20 18:03:44
Message Id:  3824
I think the painter is "attending from" her desire to be in a setting such as this one. She longs to sit on the banks of the water surrounded by beauty and nature. She creates this detailed world with the big purple flowers, the family of turtles crawling up a branch and glowing yellow sun reflected in the water. She then attempts to put herself in that world, but she knows that will never happen. The person in the picture has no real attributes. There are no clothes, or facial features, or hair. The desolate human can not even look up to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Is this out of shame or fear? Although the painter longs to be in such a beautiful place, she knows that it is only a dream and she could never make it there.
Name:  alex
Subject:  painting
Date:  2002-11-20 20:03:13
Message Id:  3825
In the picture, the sun seems to be melting, the figure looks as if its neck is broken, and the flowers look as if they are dying. Perhaps this is relevant tothe setting of the sun, the death of day. THis is quite the depressing view. NOw, what could be said about the artist from this picture? Perhaps she doesn't like the coming of night, maybe she likes dawn better. Maybe there is something inside of her that needs to come out, and through the painting of this picture she released some energy. Perhaps the artist is depressed herself.
Name:  HST
Subject:  a tiskit, a tacit
Date:  2002-11-20 20:21:28
Message Id:  3826
Today, I was stressed, cranky and inarticulate—not at my professorial best by any stretch. Apologies to my students for being so colicky;--) I definitely could have used a day or 10, in the sun on the banks of some tropical island in the Caribbean, where the trees are blooming, every part of their being pulsing up and out, and the flowers can chose to be butterflies—that, is across the way from Sharon Burgmeyer's sitter.

The bright spot of the day was that I had begged Paul Grobstein for a working definition of tacit knowing and (being the wonderful person he is), he shared the following:
"tacit knowing?everything going on inside us that we don't know is going on inside us."

I thought, solid!! As in finally, a solid foothold on what tacit knowing might mean and consequently, how it might be manifested in ways we can now see (since we're now looking). Background: my students and I had left our last meeting more confused than enlightened about Polanyi's theory. But armed with Paul's definition and Anne's (mighty goddess is she) short hand that "tacit knowing?implicit knowledge?instincutal behavior," I felt confident about our ability to break through this conceptual haze.

Not so much. Sigh.

So, fellow QIR folk, if you would share your understandings of tacit knowing with me, with my students, I'd be ever so grateful.

And if you can say something about how you are thinking about making a claim, telling a story about the data you've collected on tacit knowing, that would be schway as well.

Your most humble servant,


P.S. I'm watching "Medical Detectives" on TLC as I write this and just heard that some folks are genetically pre-disposed (and others emphatically not) to smell cyanide—is that an example of tacit knowledge?

Name:  natalie
Username:  nbishar
Subject:  Paradise?
Date:  2002-11-20 20:29:26
Message Id:  3827
I will resist reading others comments before I release my own intangible take on this beautiful painting. First off, I don't think we will be enlightening Sharon to what she didn't know she was "attending to" in the painting. I think she attended to all that she could as much as she could. What I discover by using my own body and mind is my own personal perception. It can never be Sharon's. It may be that, she had similar aims. For the human condition causes a contingency of empathy and thus elements of our essential nature are soulfully connected. But back to the painting, two words come to mind when I ponder this piece, eternity and brokenness. It doesn't seem fit that the two words assemble that well. Nonetheless, I fear the sun has become the very sustenance and destruction of this paradise. It is the life source; it produces life, light, and warmth. Yet, the white body is broken. The purple flowers to the left are broken. The broken branch looks as if it is a scorched aardvark seeking hydration. It looks like paradise is waiting for something, rather has been waiting for something for a long time. The white body limps fatigued, and motionless. The flowers reflect the same energy or lack there of. Even though there is so much water surrounding the island, the sun absorbs all of the remnants the trees try to muster into their veins. The tree on the right is not blooming. It is stark and bare. The sun is immense as it is slowly disintegrating the life it first began, while the sea also is eating away at the shoreline. Although this moment of utopia seems endless in beauty and peace, it is more or less verging on its own demise, the slow and near death of human, botanical structures, land and sea. The sky is in the background of the picture, yet consumes the most space. What is the sky, but a void expanse of stardust and wind? Is that the ultimate utopia, emptiness??
Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Smelling Cyanide
Date:  2002-11-20 20:29:43
Message Id:  3828
Yep. 'Tis Tacit.
Name:  Margaret
Date:  2002-11-20 21:36:35
Message Id:  3829
Just a few thoughts about tacit knowledge.

As my c-sem classmates know, when I was 24 I spent six months as a farrier's apprentice, learning to shoe horses and do some blacksmithing and welding. Polyani's concept of indwelling made a lot of sense to me when I thought about how I learned to use a hammer, first in shoe-making and progressing on to little animals, leaves and flowers. If I thought about it too much I would have a very hard time getting the metal to do what I wanted. If I "let it flow" I had great success. Although I didn't think it consciously at the time I understand what he means about these external objects becoming part of your being. But it also was somewhat particular. With my 2lb hammer I did my best work and easily got into that "flow" thing. With a 1lb or a 4lb I was very distracted by the feel (too light, too heavy) and finished projects with difficulty. Also, while I slipped easily into a rhythm while working with metal, I couldn't hammer a nail into wood to save my life!

Then I was thinking about animals and tacit knowing. When you pick up a horse's foot it automatically redistributes most of its weight to the other three legs--although there are those who prefer to lean on the farrier! Anyway, I believe this redistribution is tacit knowledge, right? Well, there was one horse we used to do that didn't know how to do this. If you picked up his foot he would fall over! Two of us would have to lean against him and hold him up while the third would lift the foot up and work on it. This horse was about ten years old and had always been like this; my teacher had been working on him for the horse's entire life. He was mentally sound and fine in every other way except this. I would guess that there was some sort of problem with his brain function but it seems so strange that it would only manifest itself in this one particular way.

Interesting, I think!

Name:  risa
Username:  rrice
Subject:  random thoughts on deep play
Date:  2002-11-20 23:19:03
Message Id:  3831
per request i am going to go back over some of the things i found out about deep play and rambled on in class about in my special, vague way.

more importantly than the things i found out was my process and reaction to deep play and the things i had found out about its practices. after i came to understand how deep play was defined i felt like it was this term that was applied liberally. a little too liberally. so i struggled with what was "deep". it felt like this bizarre form of white priveledge in the sense that there is no risk so great that if i lost everything i wouldn't have access to all of the material goods i needed. if i gambled and lost and damaged myself, there would still be care available to me, so i saw deep play as something that people of a first world culture of luxury could in no way partake outside of a little summertime x-games. the idea that we can even risk anything, that truly CANNOT be replaced, that there is no possibility of replacement and that would really mean the difference between surviving and not seems very slim to me. if i lost my life my family would still eat. if i lost my family i would still eat. in other words, loss of one thing does not consititute loss of everything in a culture where resources are plentiful to the point of luxury.
after that rash of reaction i started poking around on google. what was called "deep play" that wasn't porn was Diane Ackerman, porn for your soul. her words are warm honey. and more warm honey until you are a little sick with the indulgence. but she said, "deep play should really be classified by mood and not activity. it testifies to "how" something happens, not "what" happens"-she also calls it in ackerman-speak "transcendent play" and here is a little list of my favorite words before i was sick of it:

rapture, ecstacy, relish, whole, thrall, small brilliant space, gorgeous fever, lustrous, keen- and talked about "having a love affair with the world." "the day's fulfillment" now you see: spiritual porn. it sounded delightful. i wanted some. i cried a lot. i hadn't even remembered the word "rapture" existed until then. it was balm and i was bleeding.

i will admit the state of my being dictated both my reactions and my desires. my heart was a bad accident at which i could not stop staring. so then i thought:

what would the gamble look like that would ever make me want to love another human again? i mean, how big would the possible payoff have to be in order for me to even attempt it and might it be possible there is no reawrd large enough? and what sort of bullshit is it to call everything "deep play? you know-like how much further can it be devalued? and if the risk is really there, then it is always there, and that seems like an awful lot of horrible stress, so what is the point of even trying it and putting this big epic label on it?
i don't know if it works yet to turn to that which you reject for the answers you might need, so forgive me if it turns out i have no clue how to make this all make sense- but that is waht i kind of did. i wanted to give diane ackerman a chance. so i read on, " play is to risk, to risk is to play."

i cried again. becaue when you love you think you are playing, and when that love is gone, you think you were risking. but you are talking about the same thing. point goes to Diane Ackerman.
i have thought a great deal about love and loss, the only two conditions i have ever existed in for any great length of time in the frame of deep play, of risk and reward. about attachment and suffering, about play and achievement. risk is only risk because someone is attached to an outcome. if you don't care, there is nothing to lose. liberating for me in that nice california buddhist way. but then for me it came down to a question of living, loving, and loss. i think maybe i thought i could choose love again- you know- the grand and noble risk for the grand and noble payoff- but it really seemed like all signs were pointing to knowing when to stay down on the mat because life is about to kick my ass if i even try to get up so if i was smart i'd play dead. i haven't come to any greater understanding/conclusion about deep play per se, but it has made me examine risk...and risk makes me wonder about love-

diane ackerman, in a less oozy moment asks, "how does one wipe the mental slate clean, choose to be...wholly open to the world?"

oh, were that all it would take.

Name:  Diane Gibfried
Subject:  Moonlight
Date:  2002-11-21 05:39:23
Message Id:  3833
In Sharon's picture, it is night just before dawn. For me the sphere is the moon and the thinnest band of light at the horizon is the coming day. The water is pregnant. In fact, I feel the scene is full of expectancy, tension and it is sad too. The light and the water are interacting... the water is breaking apart the light into little pieces. One tree is an evergreen, strong and vital. The other is broken and appears to have died. They oppose each other on the canvas. . There is tension between the two trees. The figure has a moonlit pallor. It is seated on the broken piece of the dead tree. It is ghostly and at the same time larval. It is unformed and undefined, like unmolded clay. But there is a weighted stillness about it that bothers me. This weighted stillness fights with any ideas I may have about the figure "waiting" or moving in the future. Life and flowers and strength seem to be on the left bank. There is a body of water between the figure and vital things, flowers, green trees. Dormancy and barrenness are on the right. But in the foreground of the picture, they almost touch. A fallen branch extends its "fingers" into the water... a broken stalk leans a purple flower into the water. Something about the water also seems figurative to me. It seems like a mother. Like it offers a space of rest, a time where stillness and immobility can happen. But it is also the means for the two worlds to connect. Somehow time seems to be an element in this picture. The breaking up of the light, the coming dawn, the full moon.
Name:  Ro Finn
Subject:  Reflections on painting
Date:  2002-11-21 06:37:48
Message Id:  3834
Let's see: One tree is dead, the other has life, leaves, turgor. She sits on a dead log under dead limbs, stooped over as if to mimic the dead tree... but, look, there is a broken dead branch that is bridging into the water and acting as a support for a congregation of turtles.

And then, there's that title, "The Pool of Bethesda" -- site where Jesus reportedly healed a man who had been suffering for nearly 40 years. He asks the man to forget about all of society's "should's", do's and don't. He asks him to think only about whether he WANTED to be healed.

I think that the artist is in a place where she had decided that she wants to be healed. She is located with the dead tree and stump, but basking in warm light from a benevolent sun. It feels as though it is rising, not setting. The flowers she loves are prominent, almost too large in scale for the other things in the painting. Even the dead tree is painted to reflect (and absorb?) the sun's warm light.

But what about those turtles? Is she feeling the tugs and turmoil of menopause... the demise of her own fertility along with a new birth of her own self "on the other side of that bridge"?

Inquiring minds want to know!!!

Name:  samea
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  painting
Date:  2002-11-21 15:06:08
Message Id:  3836
i dont know exactly what she was trying to say through this painting really... all i know is wherever that painting was done... i would like to be there... the peace and serenity of the sun glistening off the water... i can practically hear the silent splashes of the ocean as it gently hits the shore... the occasional call of a passing bird... and through it all... i could ignore it if i wanted to.. sitting there on a log... choosing to be a part of the environment that surrounds me... or deciding to ignore it altogether and be wrapped up, instead, in my own little world... instead... im here at guild... with the sound of the airconditioning blowing harshly above my head and the clicking of the other keyboards keeping me awake... oh well... for the brief moment where i was a part of the picture... the only emotions that arose was.. well... sigh....
Name:  Xuan-Shi
Subject:  Random thoughts
Date:  2002-11-21 22:01:55
Message Id:  3840
The sun shines on all things on earth, illuminating the products of destruction, renewal and growth. It is symbolic as a source of hope to the defeated, who seek to bask in its warmth to drive away the terrible cold of isolation and loss. Only when everything is taken from her, does she realize the impermanence of the artifical and seek to connect with the natural. Contemplative? Frustrated? Helpless? A downcast head trapped in the midst of turmoil searching for answers within, confined to the shores she finds herself in. So near and yet so far--How deep is the water? What lies underneath its serene surface? Does she remembers how to swim? She assumes a rigid posture and faces the other shore. Is she unwilling, or is she scared? The baby turtles swim onto the lifeless shore, symbolic of life reaching out to her and intruding into her space. But she pays no attention to the life and beauty around her, refusing to lift her head up towards the sun.
Name:  Elena
Subject:  nude on shore
Date:  2002-11-22 17:43:41
Message Id:  3849
Burgmayer paints a giant moon hovering over a lake to encapsulate that spendid moment. She probably painted this scene from memory. It's stayed in her mind without her making the conscious decision to file it away in there. At one time or another, the vastness of a lake and the sky above it penetrated her subconcious. She paints a horizon with no measurements. Or, rather, something else inside her, who was attending to that severe deliniation, guided her brush. The painting says that Burgmayor is fascinated by the phenomenom of size. The horizon, sky and lake span infinetly while her own body, a tree, and the flowers by her side, are contained. She knows this fact, but it does not become a thought.

Burgmayer is the (asexual) nude figure on the shore of the lake. In a meditative position, this person attends to the rhythems of the current and all the life that flourishes by it-- the swaying reefs, hungry fish and melodious frogs. In the brush, nocturnal animals set out from their hidden dwellings. So much lives at once. Even in this peaceful setting, it is impossible to focus only on the moonbeams penetrating her skin.

Name:  Kristina Copplin
Date:  2002-11-23 09:59:17
Message Id:  3853
As I look at the painting, emotions are swirling inside me. Something in the way the colors are represented, the form of the figure looking out at the sunset- depresses me. I see trees that are decaying and a once vibrant and beautiful sun is setting for the night. How is it that I can simply look at a painting, interpret it, and absorb moods from it? By examining and internally analyzing the portrait, we are doing something that is only tacitly known to us. How do I observe the painting? I don't know. I can't express it in any words- and moreover, words would not be sufficient. I could not form enough sentences to convey how it is that by only looking at something that feelings can be conjured. It is, according to Paul Grobstein "everything going on inside [me] that [I] don't know is". How do I know to look deeper than the surface of the painting to find what lies behind it- no one has instructed me to- but something inside of me that is indescribable is learning and absorbing at a rate that I can neither explain nor comprehend.
Though I do not know what the artist "knew" when she was painting her portrait, I can assume that she did not think of each specific movement that accompanied each specific stroke of the paintbrush. If she had, she would have encountered difficulty, as often the larger picture loses meaning when we focus on the specifics.
Name:  mel Brickley-Raab
Subject:  Sharon Burgmayer's "new" painting
Date:  2002-11-24 16:57:58
Message Id:  3862
When I first saw the painting in CSem my reaction was one of serenity and meditation. I felt warm and relaxed. I think initial response was because that is how I feel while watching a sunrise over the water.
When I enlarged the image on the conputer screen and then printed it, I had a very different reaction. The painting seems to be cut in half by the sunrise. On the left you have life; the tree, the sea grass, the flowers and the frog. On the right side of the picture there is death and decay. The tree is rotting and falling apart, the figure is pearched on a broken limb. The family of turtles are traveling on another fallen limb. The figure, possibly a self portrait of Sharon, is caved in on itself, hairless transparent and sexless.
I think that what Sharon doesn't know she knows is that the time has arrived for her to make the transition. Her old sense of self and her world is dying. She is an alien in her own body. Although she may be frightened her eyes are now opened and she must proceed or die too.
I also thought that her color of the sunrise was interesting. I went to the link Anne put up on color by Sharon. In it she expresses, "yellow is not a color, it is an event, not a thing, quality."
On the link Metamorphosis her caterpillars have morphed into beautiful colorful butterflies.
Sharon doesn't look strong enough to have leaped with the frog to the other island. The family of turtles are on their way to float her across on their backs, their shells.
In Polanyi's language Sharon was "attending from" her emrergence of her new self. The color yellow which also stands for biology and perception as well as the definition of yellow as stated earlier are signs of this. To cut her pcture down the middle is also a sign with death/life flanking each side. The turtles are the help she will need from her friends.
Name:  Jessie
Username:  jposilki
Subject:  Burgmayer Painting
Date:  2002-11-24 20:23:56
Message Id:  3865
Sharon Burgmayers painting conveys a very Octavia Butler-esque idea. The person sitting on the log is looking downward, as if she is looking into herself-a very introspective position. There are plants living and dying simultanueously, things feeding off one another-all signs of change and renewal. Perhaps all Sharon knows is change. The sun, sitting on the horizon, could be setting or rising, but I see it as setting, closing the sad day that has left the person looking pale and thing, and giving them night to restore and to have a new day ahead. Either way, it is bringing a change-the only constant left in that world.

I believed the sun was setting, and I wondered why. It occured to me that always assume the sun is setting, because my fondest memories of the sun on the water was at summer camp, where the sun would reflect on the water like that. The sun setting does not carry the normal, sad lierary intonations. (I don't mean intonations, I just can't think of the right word.)

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  "Actor Forgets His Lines"
Date:  2002-11-24 22:20:40
Message Id:  3866
One of my McBrides, Bonnie Balun, is describing her "tacit" paper what it is like to perform extemporanously. I was reminded of her project last night, when I went into the city to see a collaboration of the Wilma Theater and the Philadelphia Orchestra: "Every Good Boy Deserves Favor." It was an interesting production, on many counts...not the least one being that Saturday's performance did NOT repeat Friday's, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"Forgetting lines happens to the best...Who really knows the reason? To anyone who has been on stage w/ much to do, not knowing what to do next, the experience is like the centipede stopping to think which of its many legs it should move--and becoming paralyzed. Quick recovery is possible. Or not. An actor spooked by the experience is cast out of the world of that character and into the cold, w/ no protection..."

Tacit knowing, in this account, is not just what we know that we don't know we know. It's also what we know that, called to our conscious attention, we cease to be able to perform...

Now: WHAT will happen as a result of your writing this next set of papers? What of what you know that you don't know you know will you cease to ... ?


Name:  jessie
Username:  jposilkin
Subject:  interpreting!
Date:  2002-11-24 23:12:55
Message Id:  3869
hi, orah and i are chatting, and we are going to write back to back posting bc that is what we do anyway. we are both perplexed by the idea of interpretation. Neither of us really understand how to interepret...isn't that the whole point of tacit knowing? I realize polyani has a language in which to do so...attending to/attending from...but i don't know how to "own his language," as my teachers used to tell me.

The lesson for next time is not to figure this out 9 hours before the paper is due...but at least i figured it out. let's discuss in class tommorow.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  What is interpretation?
Date:  2002-11-25 11:17:13
Message Id:  3873

We know things, tacitly, Jessie, that we don't know we know. We bring them into consciousness, make them "known" to our thinking selves...and THEN we can interpret them, give them an explanatory framework, a story that "makes sense of them"--perhaps in order, eventually, to change them.

Along this line, a cautionary tale. The NYTimes Book Review featured an essay this Sunday (11/24/02) called "Defending Dr. B": a review of a new autobiography, Rising to the Light: A Portrait of Bruno Bettelheim, by Theon Raines. Turns out that. in interviews w/ his biographer, the man who taught us all about the therapeutic power of fairy tales

"withheld meaningful details--alternately talking about his life in the abstract, distanced manner in which he wrote about it, and delivering canned (and sometimes questionable) anecdotes familiar from earlier biographies....He was unwilling to discuss his first marriage, his relationships with his children or his months at Dachau and Buchenwald. Raines interprets this opacity with racidal charity, insisting that Bettelheim is protecting his privacy, refusing to revisit a painful experience or modestly avoiding bragging. A less charitable intepretation might be that Bettelheim kept his stories vague in order not to trip himself up...."

Bettelheim committed suicide three days after these interviews ended. Raines shaped them into a worshipful biography, one that attempted to repair Bettelheim's damaged reputation; the reviewer thinks Raines didn't succeed, that such debunkings are "perhaps necessary correctives, reminders that even the most charismatic intelligence is no guard against human weakness."

The sense I make of this story is that refusing to consider one's tacit knowledge can be...deadly.


Name:  Phoebe Anderson
Subject:  Painting
Date:  2002-11-25 12:50:24
Message Id:  3876
I think the paining reveals a lack of confidence in the artist. Everything in the painting is full of life and is painted using rich colors. The person sitting on the log is white and pal, lacking all signs of life. The artist could be making a reflection to how she feels inside. Perhaps she feels dead and insignificant. All life around her is exciting and interesting. She feels that she has nothing to contribute.

The comments of others or her perception of others could be the second term that she "attends to" and her reactions to her perceptions could be the first term that she "attends from". When she sees others achieving she feels insignificant. She is "attending from" this insignificance.

Name:  Sharon Burgmayer
Username:  sburgmay
Subject:  the (non-tacit) story of bethesda
Date:  2002-11-25 13:23:15
Message Id:  3877

Anne asked me to provide my story of "the pool of bethesda". A link at the bottom of this posting will take you to that story.

It's been great fun all year to have your readings of my different paintings. "fun" doesn't in fact capture it though. It's been enlightening, provocative, affirming, confirming and moving. You've been revealing my tacit knowledge all along, in fact, with your readings--and not unfrequently with some surprising ideas for me to contemplate!

Try adding onto your tacit stories this conscious one:


Name:  Sharon Burgmayer
Username:  sburgmay
Subject:  a link that works!
Date:  2002-11-25 13:29:32
Message Id:  3878
well, that didn't work.
try this instead:

bethesda story

Name:  Bonnie Balun
Subject:  "Attending From"
Date:  2002-11-25 13:50:34
Message Id:  3879
Have you ever been to an open casket funeral? When you look into the casket, the body lying there does not resemble the person you knew. The life and spirit has left the body and all that remains is the ashen/chalky casing. The body sitting on the log in this painting reminds me of the bodies I have seen at open casket funerals, devoid of life and spirit.

Contrast that with the incredible energy and power you feel when seeing a magnificent sunset. I lived in Naples, Florida on the Gulf of Mexico for twenty years. I never tired of seeing the extraordinary sunsets there. There is nothing ashen or chalky in a sunset. The sky fills up with a vibrant kaleidoscope of color that changes dramatically with every inch that the sun gets closer to the water....every shade of red, yellow, orange, blue, purple,.... If you are fortunate enough to be sitting near the water, you hear the waves caressing the beach and you feel the powerful pull of the tide. You smell the depths of the water as the warm breeze blows soft upon your cheek. The palm trees sway. Looking into the horizon you see only water and sky, no outside distractions. At this moment you feel the power of nature around you and you feel it within you.

Why? How can this be? Who is the giver, the sustainer and the taker of life? You cannot say, but you "know." The same spirit and energy that sets the sun is also available to you.

Sometimes we do not own this. And maybe this is what Sharon Burgmayer is trying to capture here. Sometimes we turn our backs on our life, we put our heads down and refuse to look at the sun, we refuse to live life to the fullest, we may even lose the will to go on. "Do you want to get well?" Jesus asked the invalid at the Pool of Betheseda in John 5:1-15. We must allow the mystery and beauty of this question to resonate within our being and listen for the answer.

Name:  Beatrice Johnson
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  This Woman . . .
Date:  2002-11-25 14:33:57
Message Id:  3881
This Woman seems complete in her aloneness. She has Nature, Beauty, creation, and God right there with her.
Name:  risa
Subject:  um
Date:  2002-11-25 22:48:34
Message Id:  3884
i have wanted to comment on sharon's painting for a few days now but really haven't been able to. so i sort of asked myself why i haven't been able to and i think i have just felt like i really couldn't access some "reading" of anything she would not have already known. it seems pretty straight forward to me in the sense that i didn't feel i could have unearthed anything that wasn't already overt and intentioned. i felt a litte idotic about this, because i felt like i SHOULD be able to come up with something but i didn't. "contemplative androgynous, seemingly nude figure at water's edge by moonlight" is hardly the insight i was hoping for and to have read each and every detail i felt unneccessary because everything seemd to be accounted for. okay, enough, i am even boring myself now. i have to go finish my paper regarding my own superpower: "Gaydar"- the tacit knowledge of us fancy-pants queers. syand back and watch the glances fly.
Name:  natalie
Username:  nbishar
Subject:  uhhhh
Date:  2002-11-25 23:23:08
Message Id:  3886
Who says its a woman on the log?!?!?!?!

It could be a man for all we know....
I guess thats what bryn mawr will do to you... hehehe

How bout "being" or "human".

"It" seems pretty void of characteristics, maybe its supposed to represent all people, not just one sex or another.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Words, Science and the State of Evolution
Date:  2002-11-26 15:02:28
Message Id:  3890

I thought you all might be interested in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week (11/29/02), entitled "Words, Science, and the State of Evolution," by Lawrence M. Krauss, which is available online @ this address . It continues the discussion we were having several modules ago (!) about the creationism/evolution debate in education, but adds to it a very pointed query about the imprecision of language--and its consequences for scientists in particular:

"In many ways, words are a scientist's enemy. They lack the precision of numbers, and their potential ambiguity makes them ill suited to describe or help predict physical phenomena. Opponents of science can also use words to confuse matters when it comes to scientific education."

For more on the range of language use (science aiming for the particular and transparent, humanities to the evocative and allusive) see two earlier conversations, one among CSem profs on "The Two Cultures" and another in the Language Working Group on the same topic.

Just doing my job as the English prof in the bunch!

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Unlearning the Tacit is Hard
Date:  2002-11-26 22:58:45
Message Id:  3896

Okay, okay, so I know it's not good forum etiquette to write twice in a row...but I'm just trying to tie up *all* loose threads before I go away for four days...

& want to pass on to you all a website Ro. just passed on to me: it's Storytelling: A Scientist's Perspective: John Seely Brown: Unlearning the Tacit is Hard!!!!. This is a story about Brown's (re-)learning to manuever a motorcycle, an experiment in trying "to bring the tacit to the explicit," @ the end of which he observes that "getting at that, and bringing that up to the surface so that you can do something about it is incredibly is almost impossible to get hold of [tacit knowlege], reflect on it and work with it....part of the power of actually creating a framework that our mind seems to understand. You can at least begin to think about how to challenge some of this type of knowledge that is tacit."

You can learn more about John Seely Brown and a talk he gave on "Learning, Working and Playing in the Digital Age" at

Have a great Thanksgiving! (and I'll try to keep my thoughts to myself while you do).

Name:  Ro Finn
Subject:  Bethesda and Vygotsky revisited
Date:  2002-11-27 08:51:52
Message Id:  3897
Sometimes I think that this Bryn Mawr "boot camp" is about learning the fine art of mulling... and I don't mean wine. '-)

After reading Sharon's explanation of her new painting, Pool of Bethesda, I found myself disappointed with my out-of-context interpretation. Our interpretations were all over the gym. Some of them may have randomly hit closer to home for her.

In this week's assignment (observations etc on collected data), I referenced Vygotsky: "to understand another's speech, ... we must understand his thought,...we must understand his motivation," and I proposed that tacit knowledge may be best articulated if we engage "understanding" people to form the right questions.... questions that can prompt us to "get down" on our tacit knowing.

I can't help wondering what questions and insights we would have offered to Sharon if we had done the exercise knowing (i.e., understanding her thought and motivation) beforehand.

Have a great Thanksgiving!
ps... yes, Anne, I'm quoting the reading I couldn't find useful to the exercise :-)) So, what else is new!

Name:  Anne Dalke
Date:  2002-11-27 11:39:25
Message Id:  3899

So I lied...I'm NOT keeping my thoughts to myself after all (can't stand to!)

I'm feeling the need to defend the last posting assignment: my rationale was that, if you had known beforehand about Sharon's intentions in painting, you would have felt bound by those, unable to go exploring the rich ways you did, digging for what she did NOT know she knew.....

Anyhow, on to another (related) topic! Margaret had lots of questions about universal grammar, and Molly lots of other questions about the comparative sophistication of different languages, during our class discussion of Pinker's essays on The Language Instinct on Tuesday--questions which I passed them on to Eric Ramey, our resident linguist and organizer of the faculty working group on Language. Eric's reply was very helpful to me, and thought might be of interest to the rest of you, so I pass it on:

"Universal Grammar provides the principles that allow specific grammars to be built. I think its most useful to think of UG as providing a type of alphabet that allows a learner to build a grammar of a language. So of course Chinese and English have different grammars but the principles of how grammars work are the same. All languages have syllables (even sign languages), intonation patterns, syntactic rules, etc. and UG provides the principles to guide a learner in how to figure out the ambient language that they are exposed to.

[Whether some languages are more complex than others]
"is a very difficult question because we don't have a complete analysis of any language. To really answer this question we would not only want to have complete analyses of at least two languages but then also some metric on how to measure 'complexity'. Specific parts of a grammar can look more or less complex. Some languages differ in how many phonemes they have. English has around 50 and !Xhosa has about 140. Does this make !Xhosa more complicated? Who knows? The problem is that simplicity or complexity in one area (like phonology) may interact with other areas (like syntax or morphology) and cause them more simple or complex. To really answer this question we have to measure 'complexity' over the entire grammar. From the sketches of partial grammars that we already have all languages appear to be immensely complex....

The question about how well studied a language is is also very important. Understudied languages I don't think give a representative sample of how complex/simple they are. Very short sketches of grammars rarely cover enough of the grammar to give an impression of exactly how the language really works.

[I also shared w/ Eric Ro.'s observation that it might be more useful /interesting for her to study Black English or American Sign Language than French:]

"Either of these will provide a nice case study to show both the similarities of all languages and also how they vary. Black English is probably more accessible (but has larger social hang ups) because researchers have identified specific ways in which it differs from Standard English. So we can add/delete/modify a particular rule of Standard English and derive Black English. Let me know and I'll give you a few articles about the grammatical features of Black English.

Sign Language would also be interesting to look at but because it feels so exotic it may be difficult to see the similarities. This is primarily due to the switch in modalities (sight and movement vs. hearing/speaking) but there are very surprising cross modal similarities once the switch in modes is normalized for."

Name:  orah minder
Username:  ominder@bmc
Subject:  responding to bonnie
Date:  2002-11-27 17:25:08
Message Id:  3902
dear bonnie,
no i have never seen an open casket, ashen face, pried expression, helpless, beaten body. i have seen a young human soul fighting with slashing teeth and pained anger to stay alive. you'd think that the yellow light of a hospital would drain a girl of fighting power. those doctors don't understand the healing power of nature, so they screw in yellow light bulbs that make me stand rigid over a hospital bed. But little girls can teach lessons that i shiver when i realize that they know enough to teach these lessons. and i wonder where such young souls learned such power.
have you ever been to the desert, bonnie? seen the night sky stretch above and slowly curl around to the groud, scouping you up like a mama whale her young? have you ever seen the a seemingly calm sea meet the sky in the distance as two lovers fitted like spoons, perfect? have you seen the sea rage, the sky burst? and have you ever shivered and known that the human soul is like a fading flame compared to the blazing fire of nature?
but i've seen a young soul stranded in a hospital bed swell so great. i've seen a young soul stand against this powerful nature. i've seen her walk accross the water to the place where the sky and the water meet. i saw her and she said: NO, I WILL NOT DIE. I WILL NOT BECOME THAT GRAY LIFELESS BODY IN A WOODEN CASKET. she told nature she wouldn't and challeneged the power of nature and she won. where does that power come from in the young girl? where does the power to defy nature, God, come from? and if nature is the allmighty, why is it that humans have not yet been smothered by the sky and the sea?
i leave you with a quote: [by JP Donleavy. from his book 'the ginger man']

He was walking down the slope side of the bridge past this broken building, a straight dark figure and stranger. Come here till i tell you. Where is the sky high and the winds soft and moist and warm, sometimes stained with sun, with peace so wild for wishing where all is told and telling. On a winter night i heard horses on a country road, beating sparks out of the stones. i knew they were running away and would be crossing the feilds where the pounding would come up into my ears. and i said they are running out to death which is with some soul and their eyes are mad and teeth out.
God's mercy
On the wild
Ginger Man.

my love, orah minder

Name:  ro finn
Subject:  Yes, but...
Date:  2002-11-28 08:11:44
Message Id:  3903
Anne wrote:
"I'm feeling the need to defend the last posting assignment: my rationale was that, if you had known beforehand about Sharon's intentions in painting, you would have felt bound by those, unable to go exploring the rich ways you did, digging for what she did NOT know she knew....."

I do not disagree... I need an English word equivalent to the Japanese word, Hai. :-)

Let me try to explain where I am coming from...
The work of this segment was centered on speech and language as they relate to cognitive activities. So the painting presented a new and interesting angle beyond speech. The exercise was to unearth for Sharon what she did not know she knew. As we performed it, a very interesting set of results occurred. What I dug out of the painting left me personally dissatisfied. I did not feel connected with Sharon's tacit knowledge. I felt distanced from it, as if there were a dark screen between us.

From this whole segment, I have come away with the hunch that Vigotsky was maybe onto something enormously applicable... that understanding speech requires knowing the "speaker's" thought and motivation. I am suggesting that it would ALSO be interesting to perform the assignment as "understanding" helpers. Now that we understand her thoughts and motivations, the quality of what we interpret may not be as rich and varied, but may be more useful to Sharon as that which she did not know she knew.

I spoke with a member of the Knowledge Mgmt Group of Phila. who is going to work with me to set up some experiments with a women's group in the area. We discussed the idea of using art-based elements in the experiment. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thank you for the idea!

Name:  xuan-shi
Subject:  Thoughts
Date:  2002-11-28 19:56:55
Message Id:  3905
Okay, when I first looked the painting I thought I saw a moon. Out of curiosity, I scanned through the comments of other course mates and realized that many thought they saw a sun. I decided it would be stupid of me to have mistaken the sun for the moon. Guess my tacit understanding was trying to tell me something which I have consciously chosen to ignore, for fear of being different ... because others (other voices) must surely be right. Umph. What good would tacit understanding be if we do not have trust in it to guide us along in life?
Name:  ro
Subject:  Thoughts on thoughts
Date:  2002-11-29 07:33:35
Message Id:  3906
xuan-shi wrote:
"Okay, when I first looked the painting I thought I saw a moon. Out of curiosity, I scanned through the comments of other course mates and realized that many thought they saw a sun. I decided it would be stupid of me to have mistaken the sun for the moon. Guess my tacit understanding was trying to tell me something which I have consciously chosen to ignore, for fear of being different ... because others (other voices) must surely be right. Umph. What good would tacit understanding be if we do not have trust in it to guide us along in life?"

Question: Is it sun or moon?
Very interesting train of thought. I think we need to learn how to trust tacit knowledge. It can be wrong. It can be revised as we learn a better answer. Or it can be reaffirmed. Either way, from such a revisiting, it becomes more trustworthy. Yes? No?

Name:  Molly
Subject:  No hope in the colorless night
Date:  2002-12-01 08:46:23
Message Id:  3918
This is a tricky one - trying to articulate what the artist doesn't know she knows. From a semantic perspective, I can't possibly know, in the first place, what she DOES know because I don't know her. Further to that, knowing what I tacitly know is a bit of a conundrum - I can only have an idea about that, a clue, a partial picture. Faced with this difficulty, I am still able to articulate some knowledge about the artist from the painting.

The most striking thing about this picture, and about many of Burgmayer's pictures, is color. The colors used here are decidedly suppressed, but at the same time they interact very harmoniously and evoke a sense of vibrance (blue and green, no matter how muted always look like life). Without this quality, if the painting were not colored, I find it depressing and uncomfortable to look at. This is because the character on the log appears frozen and suicidal and because the image of the glowing orb is so overwhelming I'm not sure where to look for respite (I see despair, but not hope). The flowers and turtles and out-of-reach tree are not enough to keep my interest - they are in the periphery. They seem irrelevant to the character's suffering. The careful and dimensional color invites me to keep looking though. It is almost soothing.

It is the juxtaposition of a scary image and hopeful, living, beautiful color - sending two different messages. The sum of these messages equals hope beyond hope - the desperate survivor's leap of faith.

Name:  Jessie
Username:  jposilki
Subject:  wow
Date:  2002-12-02 01:56:57
Message Id:  3929
well, after finishing my hebrew and csem and religion and gobs of work early in the morning, I, being the psycho I am, came onto the forum, and looked through the archives for my old work. I am very disappointed that I didn't take advantage of this wonderful thinking space...I was talking with Orah earlier (surprise surprise) and we discussed the forum as a safe space. and it is, so I thank you all for this.

as for Sharon's work...I'm a bit in shock that I "got it wrong" (like Oliver Sack's patients?) but I am pleased, because I found a way to connect with the painting. I too, love light and water and their intermingling, and it was was a nice change of [tacit] pace to think about the moon as a beautiful light. As our light has changed from summer to fall to winter, and my habit have changed, I am concious of light and my love for it.
Light as the one constant? or change? perhaps I am still stuck on Butler. comforting, in a sick and twisted way.
anyway, enough incoherence for once. good night!

Name:  xuan-shi
Subject:  Response to Ro
Date:  2002-12-02 19:14:22
Message Id:  3932
Question: Is it sun or moon?
Very interesting train of thought. I think we need to learn how to trust tacit knowledge. It can be wrong. It can be revised as we learn a better answer. Or it can be reaffirmed. Either way, from such a revisiting, it becomes more trustworthy. Yes? No?

Well, it's ironic. Considering that we do rely heavily on tacit knowing to function in life, we probably trust that it would not fail us. In the first place, many of us won't even question its presence if we are not "made" to pay attention to it (paper assignment). Then we become perplexed, wondering why it is important to get acquainted with our tacit side. How useful is it?? I have revised my answers to this question countless times since we first start reading the Polanyi article. Sometimes, the famous teach us the most simple lessons in life, reveal to us things we never think to question because it seems so mundane. Tacit knowing is such a thing.

Name:  ro finn
Date:  2002-12-02 22:24:39
Message Id:  3933
 xuan-shi wrote"
Sometimes, the famous teach us the most simple lessons in life, reveal to us things we never think to question because it seems so mundane. Tacit knowing is such a thing.

And sometimes, we learn from our fellow class-mates. I'm thinking a lot about what you wrote. Thanks! :-)

Name:  HST
Subject:  to be or...
Date:  2002-12-02 22:51:24
Message Id:  3934
Meant to post this last night, but it resonates for me/us even more now. As usual, I couldn't keep my mouth shut even though Orah and Jess were the "teachers" today. Sorry, ladies. I couldn't not speak to the question of whether BEING resides in the "deep structure" of our tacit/unconscious knowing, or in our ability/impulse to playback that knowing as "surface structure" or if it is some admixture of those elements and more.

I got there because Sacks's suggestion that one can re-incarnate oneself, transform one's subjectification, disavow one's neurobiological identity and revise the structures of tacit knowing withi/in a particular role, flow, or performance intrigues and disturbs (?) me.

There is a movement in modern folkloristics that understands identity as process, as being in flux and emergent in embodied performance. I happen to embrace this theoretical and methodological position.

And yet, I hesitate at the idea that one can "forget" TO BE Tourettic and in that dis-remembering, not BE Tourettic: that one can so profoundly attend away from BEING parkinsonian,so as to not know how to perform parkinson's disease anymore.

Can what we know (explicitly), what we believe, fundamentally alter our being? Or can it only change the stories we tell about ourselves? Are those different things? Anyway, all of that reminded me of poem a friend recently sent to me because the cartoon references reminded her of me.


...and these are only some of the things I believe
By Staceyann Chin

Imagination is the bridge
between the things we know for sure
and the things we need to believe
when our worlds become unbearable

So I know the way my tongue feels
wrapped around a sliver of East Indian mango
I know it reminds me of a time of giant breadfruit trees
skinned six year-old knees
and pungent pimento seeds drying on a sheet of galvanized zinc

I know the sounds I make during sex
know them because my lover makes them for me
when she wants to remind me that I am not always in control

I also know if you are black/ male and Mobile America
the police will pull you over- especially
if you drive an expensive car

I know if you speak differently from the rest of the crowd
chances are your contemporaries have already made fun of you

We all know this world is difficult
because we each have to live here
and in this time of schoolboy bullets
biological warfare and kiddie porn
it takes guts to believe in any God
so I practice on believing in the smaller things
till I am able to make room for the rest

I begin with believing there's a Santa Claus
except I believe Saint Nicholas is a holiday transvestite
and I believe in monsters lurking under the bed
because they give our children something to conquer
before the world begins to conquer them

And I believe in the steady inflation of the tooth fairy
donate more than one nickel to that cause
because a dime under a pillow makes it easier
to endure the loss of a molar
prepares for the greater loss of a teacher
or a mother to the NYPD

And I believe in the identity of the Easter Bunny
believe he's the same person as Bugs Bunny
which means being schizophrenic isn't always bad
means when I'm tired of being a black feminist poet
I could go rally for rights of the new age transsexuals
get them an interview with Rosie O'Donell or Oprah
I believe I could find them a few friends right there on Sesame Street
and contrary to popular belief
I believe Bert and Ernie are straight
believe they're just waiting for the right girls to come along
but I believe Kermit the Frog is a closet Dyke
and that's why he has issues with pushy lesbians like Miss Piggy

And I believe most lovers
will lie to you eventually
and though I believe two wrongs don't ever make a right
--sometimes slashing his tires makes you feel better

and I believe Dharma and Greg are funny
but only if they make you laugh
and I believe Pinky and the Brain are revolutionaries
because-every night-they try to take over the world
like them, I believe there will always be something to fight for
and I believe everyone should believe in something
anything - if it helps you make it through the day
so I believe in Ashanti spirits
in spite of what the pragmatists say
I believe in unbelievable phenomena
like telepathy and karmic shape-shifters
crafting futures from the moon
I believe in that elusive world peace
I believe if I believe - it really could come soon
and I believe in unexpected and capricious friendships
I believe in trusting with the tenacity of a fool

And I believe in believing everyday
-and for as long as we can-
I believe we should believe in something we don't know for sure
acknowledge the range of possibilities
unlimited by what we see
move reality with imagination
we decide what our destinies will be

Name:  natalie
Username:  nbishar
Subject:  a tacit life... oh no.
Date:  2002-12-03 01:41:50
Message Id:  3935
In response to the last message:

Can what we know (explicitly), what we believe, fundamentally alter our being? Or can it only change the stories we tell about ourselves? Are those different things?

How are the two separate? At all?? Mind and body are connected. We don't completely control our minds or our bodies. Therefore, the thought of no longer performing Parkinson's disease is impossible. It takes much more than will power or a certain mind-set to rid oneself of such things. Yes, we have power over how we act; however, we do not have power over how nature takes its course.

LIFE IS NOT JUST A STORY. Or (how we tell stories or how stories change). You can tell a story about life, but life is not just a story. A story is completely penetrable; this life leaves us mere mystery and things unknown. Life is not just a story or belief: it is a breath, a handshake, a kiss, a stab wound. Life is not a passive word; it is an action word. If a human lived in a box, of course the world would be a fabrication of his/her mind, but if they were to literally step outside of the box, certain absolutes would astound him/her. He can walk, move across the ground (whether grass, desert or rocks...) he can see the changing seasons, the sun and the moon. Like the rest of humanity, he can see with open eyes, he can explore, he can discover LIFE: the action gallivanting, burning, and charging around us.

Oh and ladies, in reference to tacit knowledge and the painting. Don't ever get down that your perceptions were "wrong". But admire the UNIQUE nature of each of our minds. How, that our different perceptions of the same picture evoke diverging grand and/or grave emotions, ideas, or thoughts. The whole idea of tacit knowing is that there is no right or wrong outside of your own mind. For it is right for you. But as for your colleague or peer it may be the complete opposite. THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG within the painting. It is a personal discovery, one that you decided to share or keep to yourself. But you know you want to share it because it is truly exciting to see how we all see it differently. And it is enlightening to think of new things that you would never have noticed otherwise. I did not know of the "moon", or the turtles or of making the pale figure a woman. And most of all, it is quite an adventure to travel the path of the artist herself!! Thank you Sharon!

i may have just contradicted my own words, you'll have to forgive me, I can't help but think outloud.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Lakoff Lecture: Please Come!
Date:  2002-12-03 11:13:11
Message Id:  3936

George Lakoff (whose Philosophy in the Flesh we read together in mid-November) will be giving a talk this Sunday Dec. 8th at 7:00pm in Carpenter 21

The Brain, The Mind, and Language
Why They Matter in Personal Life, in Politics, and Throughout the Academic World

Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and Cognitive Linguistics are presently esoteric disciplines that most people know little about. Yet they are utterly transforming our understanding of virtually every aspect of our lives - especially our personal and political lives. They also have transformative implications for virtually every academic discipline. This lecture will be an overview for a general audience.

Name:  ro finn
Subject:  Laikoff lecture
Date:  2002-12-04 07:43:05
Message Id:  3952
Yes, would not miss this one! I'm bringing a someone who is expert in knowledge management... looking forward.

Anne, you had mentioned that his Monday activities on campus might also be accessible ... still true? If so, logistics, please.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Re-telling the Story (of Menopause)
Date:  2002-12-04 15:08:08
Message Id:  3966
Another historical/cultural story retold and revised (perhaps of particular interest to the McBrides?!):

A Special Lecture by Judith Houck
University of Wisconsin-Madison
"The Social History of a Biological Process, Menopause,1897-1980"
Sponsored by The Center for Science in Society :

5 December, Thursday
4:00 PM, Park Building, Room 338
3:30 PM, Refreshments, Room 338

Judith Houck is assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison with appointments in the departments of Medical History, Women's Studies, and the History of Science and the Center of Women's Health and Women's Health Research. Her research centers on the history of women's health. She is currently finishing a book on the history of menopause, tentatively titled, More than Hot and Bothered: Women, Medicine, and Menopause in America, 1897-2000. Her next project focuses on the women's health movement
in the United States, 1969-2000.

For information, please contact Tomomi Kinukawa at

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  fairy tales and Flatland
Date:  2002-12-04 21:39:30
Message Id:  3974
This note from a McBride who took (an earlier incarnation of) this CSem last year:

This week's New Yorker (12/9) has an article by Gopnik on fairy tales and the NYR of Books this week (12/19) has one on Flatland and its scientific and religeous implications. Thanks for opening these worlds up to me. Merry Christmas. Meg Devereux

[when I wrote Meg to ask her permission to post this, she replied]

Please post anything. CSem was such an affirming experience for me that I am almost afraid to take a non Csem course. I loved... the rewrites - something not offered back in the'60's. Still a year later conjuring up the delicious discussions etc....Tell your Csems they are lucky to be at BMC. I miss it.

Name:  Margaret
Subject:  I think I need to get a life...
Date:  2002-12-04 22:56:36
Message Id:  3975
This is going to be a terribly long post and I am going to be very anal(but hopefully coherent) about the Oliver Sacks story we read, "The Last Hippie." For those of you in different groups, in our class Tuesday I asked if Sacks takes creative liberties with his facts or does he possibly not bother to check them. The first thing that didn't seem right was Greg talking about the Grateful Dead and the song "Tobacco Road." To my knowledge, the GD have never performed that song so I did a little checking. They haven't, but at the Central Park show that Greg references in the story Jefferson Airplane was also there and it appears they may performed it-- they played it many other times at different venues. So I chalked that up to Greg's mis-remembering.

Fast forward to 1991 and Sacks takes Greg to see the Dead at Madison Square Garden. In talking about Greg's blindness he mentions that Greg asks if Sacks can see Jerry's afro, then explains to the reader that Jerry has straight, shoulder-length hair. However, Jerry did not have straight hair. Maybe not quite an afro but it was curly.

Now here is something I did not realize until I was talking to my husband about this last night: Sacks writes that Greg's memory reaches to 1970 and that's about it, but he can remember some things with repetition, i.e., songs, the layout of his ward. When describing the MSG show he claims Greg knows the words to the old songs but not the new ones, and that he sings Aiko Aiko "with gusto." My husband stopped me right there and said, "Well, that can't be if the guy's memory stops at 1970. They didn't do Aiko for the first time until 1977." I guess I should mention that my husband and I are (were?) kind of serious Deadheads; he has been to almost 200 shows and I've been to somewhere around 120. My husband also loves to trade tapes and has about 1800 hours worth of GD shows here at the house.

So how did Greg know the words to the song? Aiko Aiko was first recorded in 1950, I'm not sure by who (Dr. John?) and is filled with nonsense words (or at least another language) that are not easily understandable. Also, there are some lyrics that are particular to the GD version of the song. It's possible that someone on the ward had a tape with the song on it and played it for Greg. The Dead never recorded this on a studio album so it would have to have been a live show tape. So we can assume 1) Greg heard someone else play it way back when and then when Jerry and Co. hit the chords in 1991 he was immediately able to remember the all the words, despite his memory problems or 2) someone on the ward was a Deadhead (why else would they have the live tape—not available in stores, only through trading with others) and they played Aiko Aiko over and over again and Greg learned it that way.

Why am I going on and on about this? It bothers me! Ann asked in class if getting these details right was important to the story. I think so, because for me, it calls Sacks' integrity into question. If he's sloppy with easily verifiable details like Jerry's hair how correct are his other statements? Sacks is using Greg's singing along to Aiko Aiko to support the theory that Greg's damaged brain could recall info prior to 1970-- but there is no way that particular bit of info could have come from that time period. It was mentioned that Greg was able to learn music so why not just say that he learned the song more recently and was able to sing along instead of presenting it as some long lost piece of knowledge? If Sacks didn't realize it was a recent thing, that's sloppy research.

I think I might write Oliver Sacks a note and ask him about this. Maybe he'll respond!

Name:  Xuan-Shi
Subject:  Response to Natalie's posting
Date:  2002-12-05 00:14:07
Message Id:  3976
"You can tell a story about life, but life is not just a story."

Actually, here's a person who thinks that her life is a story, and one who is often working to revise it to make it better. Every major decision I have to make, every insurmountable obstacle that comes my way, I replay in my mind the possibilities of how the plot would change, in this life story of mine. Perhaps because of the fear of living a life with regrets, of not having my share of contentment when my hair turns white, or committing suicidae at age forty... I am always asking questions about how I could change my life, as a story. Only that it is an ongoing story, a story which I have control over its development. That is revision in a sense; although not going over the old, I am using the old to reconstruct the 'new', to add a different twist, to modify, to experiment, with the material of life. Yes, we can tell a story about life. I agree that life is an action word. But there is a romanticism in seeing life as a story. And this is what I need, for living in the present moment is not enough (Enough of the 'ohms')... I need something deeper, richer, that draws me into the flow, that reminds me to smell the roses on the way, to give me the assurance that I am the storyteller of my life...

"The whole idea of tacit knowing is that there is no right or wrong outside of your own mind. For it is right for you."

*Bringing in our class discussions* What is the point of having tacit knowing when what you know tacitly is no longer applicable? Greg for one, knows how to watch TV, he knows how to "SEE"; he lives in a world of his own, but realizing that he is blind. This could be very dangerous to his safety. I personally feel that the "whole" idea of tacit knowing is that the body has a say in how the mind thinks and perceives things. There can be a "right/wrong", "appropriate/inappropriate". We have to adapt to changes in the world, and sometimes, we have to unlearn the tacit which might no longer be useful to us.

Name:  Xuan-Shi
Subject:  Abt poem, video, and readings
Date:  2002-12-05 12:24:59
Message Id:  3981
...and these are only some of the things I believe
By Staceyann Chin

"Imagination is the bridge
between the things we know for sure
and the things we need to believe
when our worlds become unbearable"

I went to bed thinking about this quote. It reminded me of the girl who worked in the silk mill (We watched the video "The Women of Summer"). When asked how she could tolerate the dreariness and montony of factory work, she replied that work wasn't boring because her mind wandered away...

I admire her spirit and strength, which I find lacking in myself. It perturbs me to think that given better social-economic circumstances, I have grown up pampered and weak, unable to accept the brutalish reality that life is HARD and UNFAIR. I want a good job, I want to do the work I love, I want this and I want that... All my dreams would come true, if I worked hard enough... When denied something, I become resentful and feel cheated. The opportunity to bridge the gap between imagination and the present has made me greedy.

It's sad though, that fortunate people usually fail to appreciate all that they have. It reminds me of a quote from the article "Behold They Are Women!", Pg 127: "She (Carey Thomas) dismissed the notion that students' economic backgrounds shaped college social structure because she identified with the affluent student, not the one forced to live in pinched surroundings." The sheltered sapling would grow towards the light, becoming strong and useful when it grows into a tree. The wild weeds survive through the tenacity of their will, forever overshadowed and neglected.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  snowy, no-showy day
Date:  2002-12-05 12:40:54
Message Id:  3982
to the mcbrides (w/ an invitation to all cluster-mates to listen in)--

missed you ALL (except stalwart Molly!) today--
hoping you're enjoying your snowy day--
we'll just call this one a wash and do what we can in the time we have left to us--

which is: go on thinking on your own, &
write what you can about "the bmc story" for tuesday--

to nudge you along: my organizing questions today
(after watching the video on "women of summer")
were to have been these:

having read this material & seen the video, tell us what you think about these queries:
what is the use of a liberal education?
does it HAVE a use?
by defintion, should it NOT be purposeful?
(see esp. the open ltrs. in the alum bulletin....)

what educational vision(s) does BMC embody
(or present itself as embodying)?
what vision(s) does it deny/refute?
to what degree has your experience here jived w/ and/or diverged from such vision(s)?

we'll talk further about these matters next week--
til then, enjoy your solitary reflection(s)!


Name:  natalie
Username:  nbishar
Subject:  Response to Xuan-Shi
Date:  2002-12-06 17:08:45
Message Id:  3991
But are you the sole creator of your story? Are there not circumstances where you are not in control? That as the narrator, your words slip and they seem to emanate from the experience you have been thrown into, whether you wanted to or not. Thus life is not just a story. You are not just a story. You are not just words on a piece of paper! Yes these words will last forever. But your life cannot only be a story; we live to tell a story. What about the purpose behind a story? What is your purpose, you talk with near cynicism of your high position in life, but think of the wondrous things you can do for the world. If one is selfless, it is easy to detach from this feeling of separation of peoples based on socio-economics. What if we were concerned with how our story affects the people around us, not just about telling the story for ourselves, or our own contentment or our own revision, but for the revision of the world along with you.

What about the physical, the body within this life? This life is material; it is full of matter, matter that we cannot control, events that we cannot control. It is that sense of uncertainty that causes us to hope and put our faith in the future, our faith in what is to come. I want to say there is a balance between the two: you telling and creating the story, and you letting the story unfold as the world affects you. But I know it's more of a struggle. As you continue in your next message, there are people in this world that suffer under their circumstance, that as much as they revise their story they are motionless and change is not possible. And there are people who, affluent and with not many burdens can easily change and manifest their actual thoughts and dreams. If you have the power to do so, all the best to you! But don't tell me that you control the story. When I say life is an action word, I do not only mean the actions we take in life, even though these actions are vital and do shape our destiny or story in so many ways, but I am also talking about the action that life takes on us, you cannot create contracting a terrible disease, or create winning the million dollar lottery, or create the story of your parents dying. These are things that happen upon us, not on what we make happen.

About the tacit— "applicable/ inapplicable" is quite different from "right/ wrong" or even "appropriate/ inappropriate". I agree that the whole idea behind "tacit" knowing is how the mind thinks and perceives things. However, IS it not the case that each and every one of us perceives everything differently? When I was going to analyze Sharon's painting, I knew that if I read everyone's explanation it would affect my interpretation. So I made sure to write my own thoughts before I went back and read everyone else's. It is beautiful that we notice and identify the same moment, place, piece of art, even person as something unique in our own eyes. That is why thought flourishes and constantly changes. I would never see "tacit knowing" as something definitive or concrete, rather it is an abstraction that can be reflected upon but never captured in a bottle or pinned down into a category. It is free like our unconscious. It is continually a revision. We can never unlearn "tacit" but we can add continually to it. It is ever growing, accumulating and once you identify it, it looses the structure you identified. Therefore, right and wrong continue to change, as do what is applicable and inapplicable and appropriate and inappropriate.

Name:  Xuan-Shi
Subject:  Clarifying
Date:  2002-12-07 00:14:23
Message Id:  3993
"That is revision in a sense; although not going over the old, I am using the old to reconstruct the 'new', to add a different twist, to modify, to experiment, with the material of life."

Pardon me if I didn't express my thoughts clearly. I agree with natalie that we cannot create stories, and "things do happen upon us". For me, the "things that happen upon us" are the "material of life", the opportunities that allow us to change our story. How it would "unfold" would depend on our decisions in many circumstances...but of course, there are also many instances when the "endings" didn't turn out the way we meant for it to be. However, being able to consciously ask ourselves, "Where do I go from here?" when we are dealing with "things that happen upon us", we are exercising control over the development of the story, and taking agency.

"But your life cannot only be a story; we live to tell a story."

Why can't my life be a story with different themes? Yes, we live to tell a story, to tell many stories. We can make up stories, or tell a story about ourselves. And we allow room for revision upon retelling. But I see myself as living in an ongoing story, and even if my life was so miserable that I have no control over it at all, at least I have the power to end this story, to choose the ways I wish to end it (an extreme example).

When we are revising our old stories, remembering that there is really no right or wrong, we are working to come up with a version that goes well with ourselves. This is apparent in psychotherapy, where family members may tell different versions of the same story to the therapist. Recovery for her patient only occurs when the therapist empowers the patient to change her 'old story' (by helping her develop stronger resources), that is when growth is possible, and healing takes place. If we only live to tell a story, where is there opportunity for real change, altering the story as it unfolds? Why do we even work to revise old stories, if they aren't going to have any impact on our opinions, our actions, or our life?

You say that it is "that sense of uncertainty that causes us to hope and put our faith in the future, our faith in what is to come." I feel however, that many people do get disillusioned with uncertainty. Uncertainty tends to evoke feelings of helplessness and make one hesitant or afraid to make decisions. Yes, we may have faith and hope in the unknown, but that is because we feel either we could have to power to effect change, or be given the opportunity to regain control over our lives. I doubt if a man who is uneducated and jobless has anything to look forward to except striking the lottery, or finding a decent job. He dares to hope because of the reasons mentioned above.

Well, the purpose behind a story, I would say, depends very much on the storyteller. Why is she telling a story? "What is your purpose, you talk with near cynicism of your high position in life, but think of the wondrous things you can do for the world." My purpose was really to fulfil my duty as a student posting my responses on the QIR forum. I merely shared my own reflections on the web about something that has made me rethink the way I see myself, and the world.

About "unlearning the tacit"... I am working on the assumption that the repertoire of behavior that is being classified as tacit is not completely the same for every individual. I would have to think over what you have said :)

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Deep Play Revisited
Date:  2002-12-07 09:36:55
Message Id:  3994

Paul and I have been involved this semester in (among other things) the Faculty Working Group on emergence (see Our discussion this past Friday morning centered on the notion of the 2nd law of thermodynamics (that the overall direction of change in the universe is from less probable/more organized states to more probable/less organized states....that there is always a net loss of organization in the process. Spontaneous energy flow is always "downhill", never spontaneously in the opposite direction). Key to our discussion was the notion that the tendency of energy to spread out (=entropy) is the essential context for, and productive of, emergent systems. Biological evolution is the ultimate example of emergence--and that process is predicated on the inevitability of risk, loss and death. This final note made me think again, of course, of deep play, w/ an increasing awareness that ALL of life (whether we choose consciously to play it this way or not) is the deepest kind of play.

How's THAT for an early Saturday morning thought?


Name:  ro. finn
Subject:  deep thermodynamics
Date:  2002-12-08 08:18:43
Message Id:  4002
Anne wrote:
"Biological evolution is the ultimate example of emergence--and that process is predicated on the inevitability of risk, loss and death. This final note made me think again, of course, of deep play, w/ an increasing awareness that ALL of life (whether we choose consciously to play it this way or not) is the deepest kind of play."

You go, girl!...You may have to do a course on deep play just to locate a category for it ;-)

If emergence is the basis for evolution and if that is the basis for life, and if the progression of life requires risk, loss, death, then each evolutionary (generational?) layer plays deeply in order to morph to the next. Or is it that each plays deeply in order to morph WELL to the next state... I mean, does the inevitability of emergence carry the possibility that the next instantiation could just be a regressive mess? If so, is it that there's no choice but to take one's "best shot", given what's at stake? Not sure if this is encompassed in your thought, but I'm on a roll of my own now ;-) Too late.

What I'm thinking--at the micro-level of individual you or me-- is that we each DO choose to die dying or die growing... any neutral, passive state of living/existing is a myth. If we choose to die growing, we each must exert continuous effort, or we will slide into the other state. So, there really is a choice, and that sets the stage for a deep play (maybe): choose to die growing (play for quality, fullness, meaning, self-respect, other's respect...), in spite of the irrational probability of risk/loss/ultimate death.

So, life (progression towards death) is not only full of imperatives to manage risk. Risk management is the game... in order to sustain the longest, fullest run.


Name:  risa
Username:  rrice
Subject:  die resisting
Date:  2002-12-09 00:23:38
Message Id:  4010
there is also the third state which one can find themselves having to exist in, the state that most of the people of the world outside of the first world exist in continually, that is the state of dying resisisting despair. it has neither the luxury of growth nor the luxury of giving in. i will state again that deep play is a gamble for the priveldged in humans, because for most of the third world deep play=life. it's not like sitting in your living room in front of a fire planning your ascent of Everest wearing North Face undies and sipping cocoa out of a Pottery Barn mug. i am still struggling all of these serious and multi-uses for deep play that are no longer play and are deep only in the way the snow in Aspen is deep after four cocktails and a full stomach of lobster bisque. like, if you can CHOOSE risk, if you can CHOOSE to enter into it, and it is not your everyday state of being, that is a luxury. i made peace with the "play" part of deep play and the biological part of it sounds even more valid because of the totality of the gamble and the abscence of options but i still resist this liberal application of the term.


and the tacit thing is starting to afflict me again.

i might be siding with Haley on this:
"And yet, I hesitate at the idea that one can "forget" TO BE Tourettic and in that dis-remembering, not BE Tourettic: that one can so profoundly attend away from BEING parkinsonian,so as to not know how to perform parkinson's disease anymore."

(i feel however, that i learned more in the thoughts it has inspired than in the thing itself, of which i am incredibly grateful. in fact, i have suffered so much positive transformation in the brief time of the course i couldn't even begin to articulate it.)

however if one can attend away from parkinson's, can one attend away from schizophrenia? can i attend TO schizophrenia if i am largely not? why would it work in only one direction? what if all of this work and writing on tacit knowing as just a way for the patriarchy to continue to own and name all of the mysteries of the world thier names in order to keep the social monopoly in place? like i am more concerned with their desire to name and tag this thing and try to come to some kind of general comclusion about "what we do"-- who is the we? i end up being fascinated even about the idealogy of such a claim, not just the idea itself.

and margaret had a REALLY good point. okay, so we are trying to get it "less wrong"-- so is there anyone who ought to get it "more right?" say... my brain surgeon-- would i be happier if he was okay with my diagnosis being "less wrong?" or would i be willing to jive with this idea if he was an autobiographer instead? who gets extra slack on the thin wire of my belief- a doctor or a storyteller? my point being that while getting it "less wrong" would not negate a story, i think it causes me alarm when we could live with getting it "less wrong" if that meant incorrect facts and not a "less wrong" conjecture or hypothesis. in the past we have talked about elements in the reader that seem false or invalid and if that negates the entire thing or does it have to? so i thought about who gets to be "less wrong", about whom we could LIVE with being "less wrong."

i'd be interested to know what kinds of "less wrongs" & "more rights" other people would trust.

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