A paradigm shift changes everything. That can be challenging. A paradigm shift literally means we must change our belief as to what knowledge is and the way that we attain it.
In the paradigm shift that is occurring right now, we are surpassing old paradigm notions of knowledge which prescribed that we know something when we can prove it. Measurement, behavior, and comparison of data are the stuff of proof. Cognition has been king and intelligence has primarily referred to thinking.
In the new paradigm knowledge is emergent and comes forward in relationship. Knowledge emerges in context and evolves over time. It is not a fixed entity to be gained but a field in which we are a factor of its essence. Knowledge doesn’t exist outside of us and who we are. We are part and participant. Knowledge, therefore, includes many immeasurables, not the least of which is who we are. And who are we? We embed meaning, aesthetics, love, community, and many more qualities that cannot be measured. Cognition is but a part of who we are and not the whole picture. Only our wholeness embodies knowledge.
Consider the simple cell and consider that what is true for the cell does not constitute but a small part of what is true for humans. Cells cannot be known by the data of their nucleus, or mitochondria, or their chemical make-up. To know a cell we must appreciate its relationship to other cells. A kidney cell, for example, is continually communicating with other kidney cells and, to a lesser but significant degree, with all the other cells in our body. Keep the kidney healthy and we support the whole body. if we poison the kidney it is at our own peril. It is in relationship, in context, that we know the cell and only in that wholeness can its well-being be assessed.
Relationship and emergence; emergence and relationship. That is the new paradigm. Knowledge is open-ended, a field of participation in which optimal well-being resides.
Real change requires inspired people as champions. In my life, the essentials of Natural Learning Relationships appeared in an inspired weekend. My life changed forever. I knew that I was being blessed with an insight that could change the lives of children, families, communities, society, and perhaps the course of human history. I knew this all at once; though bringing it forward implied a lifetime of service and devotion. I am still growing into that.
Yes, I know that I have used terms usually reserved for spirituality. But please do not believe for one second that Natural Learning Relationships (NLR) is religious, or that I promote any particular faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, an inspirational quality of NLR is that any family can use it. Moreover, NLR shows many ways that each of us can contact inspiration within our families, schools, and communities. It is a tenet of NLR that our everyday lives include inspirational opportunities.
But inspiration does mean that we have contacted a deeper part of ourselves that is not part of ordinary consciousness. When we are inspired we are not merely thinking, or feeling. Something different is occurring. Consider the source of the word inspiration. To be inspired literally means to be breathed into. It was originally believed to be one of the gods or God talking to you, (inspire and spirit come from the same Greek root meaning “breath”). Removed from a religious context, inspiration refers to that unique moment when a new way of ordering life appears that is obviously superior to what came before.
Everyone has moments of inspiration. Most often, they change things locally. Years of concentrated effort lead to the famous “A-HA” moment. Business practices change, a mystery is solved, family relationships are reconstructed. Inspiration leads to change.
When the inspiration is far reaching and cuts across many disciplines it signals a shift in consciousness, a more comprehensive and incisive way of perceiving ourselves and the world we live in. A paradigm—the set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices by which we order our world—is undermined and a new one appears.
This has happened before. Contrast the Middle Ages, also known as the Dark Ages, with the Renaissance period of history. The former is characterized by feudalism, faith above reason, the absence of scholarly inquiry, an Earth that is flat and the center of the world, etc. The Renaissance features science, new perspectives in art, and a more accurate view of Earth and human’s place in the world, etc.
The speed of a paradigm shift is a function of the technology of the times. Printing presses and sailboats suggested a long timeline at one point in history. Airplanes and the Internet has suggested another timeframe entirely.
The new paradigm includes and transcends the previous one. It solves previously unsolvable problems. It awakens dormant insights into ourselves and the world around us. It promises greater well-being. In short, new paradigms inspire. Birthed in inspiration, they in turn inspire those who participate in them.
Consciousness shifts bring forth power, energy, and curiosity. As with the Renaissance period and its child the Reformation, those inspired by new paradigms reorganize society and culture.
There is a paradigm shift occurring right now, here, in our lifetimes and culture. It is a shift so sweeping that it reorganizes every aspect of relationship with children. Every discipline now must account for relationship and wholeness.
Wittgenstein sounded the death knell of logical positivism so loudly that his mentor, Bertrand Russell, had to distance himself from Wittgenstein’s work. Along with the (then) newfound discipline of General Semantics and the work of Korzybski communication patterns changed forever.
With the investigation of family dynamics and the work spearheaded by Satir no longer could any family member be considered in isolation.
Of course, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics ended the search for the building blocks of matter and any absolute notion of space and time. Chaos Theory ended the ridiculous idea that entropy applied to living organisms. Prigogine and colleagues showed that all life forms are open, dynamic systems self-organizing to greater complexity. They won the Nobel Prize for this work. Maturana and Varela showed this to be true throughout biology. Even cells can only be understood when seen in relationship to other cells in the organism with which they co-exist.
Husserl’s intense study of phenomenology revealed that the identity of entities can only be found in their relationship with others. Existentialism undermined reliance on myth and through the sagely efforts of Viktor Frankl brought us face to face with meaning as the primary factor in a person’s well-being. Of course, meaning cannot be measured or quantified. Frankl’s great contemporary, Martin Buber, demonstrated that authentic spirituality and relationship are hand-in-glove.
Alfred Adler, Carl Rogers and their Humanistic cohorts brought the importance of relationship to therapy and revealed to us all the psychological dimensions of education. The influential philosopher and educator Krishnamurti tied self-knowledge to relationship with others. Carl Jung and the transpersonal psychologists made the leap to deeper realms of human awareness. They bridged the way back home to spiritual philosophy free from religion and cultural constraints—an approach known as the Perennial Philosophy that stretches all the way back to the 9th century and is embraced by sages East and West.
And now brain science, specifically in the well established field of interpersonal neurobiology, insists on the shift . Brain growth (actually neural nets of interlocking dendrites) depends upon the relationships in a person’s life. As the brain is in so many ways the governor of the way we live this point must be emphasized again and again. Genetics sets the table; relationship provides the nourishment that determines brain well-being.
So here we are. We live in a paradigm shift. Philosophy, science, and progressive education insist that we can no longer equate intelligence and knowledge with data collection and regurgitation. Science goes further—we can no longer be sure that a given set of facts will lead to a predictable result. What does this mean to parenting and education? How shall we prepare our children and families for this new world?
There is no way to stop a new paradigm. Within this context of this new paradigm, Natural Learning Relationships emerges. Natural Learning Relationships is of the new paradigm and the new paradigm is of Natural Learning Relationships.