Perform the Great Work (in different modalities)

Digital Ambler has a new piece up today, called On Kinetic Meditation, which is quite good.  Go read it, regardless of whether you’re a teacher or a practicing magician, or both.

So, Fr. Rufus Opus has this idea called “kinetic meditation”, where one does a particular activity as a kind of magical or contemplative act by itself.  In performing that act, one syncs or aligns one’s sphere with that particular activity.  What we might call kinetic meditation in magic might be better described as, well, “practice” in anything more physical or tangible: sports, engineering, cooking, whatever.  In other words, by actually doing the thing, you not only become better at it but start incorporating it into yourself and thinking processes.  A well-trained chef, for instance, can whip up a complex dinner with minimal planning because he intuitively understands what goes together and how to prepare it without much thought, relying on shortcuts [Occam’s Razor] and drawn-out procedures alike as needed. [Gordon calls this Occam’s Shaving Cream: Multiply where necessary] A pro soccer player doesn’t have to plan every action out or check with his teammates; he acts instinctively, reacting as well as and at the same time as acting on the field.   A competent programmer doesn’t always need an API and syntax guide open for a given program, but spews out code that works and works well as if he were writing a Facebook message to his good friends.  This sort of practice builds muscle memory, reflexes, split-second thinking, and a deep intuitive understanding of how things work.  It’s not easy, sure, but it makes things easier given enough time and practice.

My take on it is something I’ve said before:

You can’t think with tools you haven’t used.  You can’t think with tools you haven’t used.  You can’t think with tools you haven’t used.You can’t think with tools you haven’t used. You can’t think with tools you haven’t usedYou can’t think with tools you haven’t used.

Is the lesson sinking in yet?

Today, I watched sixth graders struggle to set up a template in a blank word processor document — header in the upper right hand corner, centered bold-italic-underlined title, paragraph properly indented and in the correct typeface, Times New Roman 12 point.  Don’t tell me we have a crowd of “digital natives” who know how to work with computers intuitively. Some of them do, some of them don’t.  A lot of it depends on how thoroughly integrated technology is with their home lives — and a LOT of that is dependent on how well-off the family is, and how much access to computers the kids are allowed to have.  They can’t think with these tools yet, because they don’t know what digital buttons to press.  These things are not intuitive.

I compare this with my own experiences recently, making a handout for a colleague:

But how does one answer a question like that? We come upon the problem of Language [referencing an earlier post here]. The professional teacher can’t say, as the magician can: “I went to my astral temple, and I called up my Holy Guardian Angel, and with his help I completed the work in ten minutes.” Likewise, the professional teacher in the present day can’t say, as the alchemist can, “I macerated the niter from the worksheet, calcined the residue to extract the salts, cohobated them for ten minutes, and out popped your worksheet.”

The professional teacher, or teacher-as-graphic-designer in this case says, “well, I did a dozen searches for free clip art on google, and I used my experience looking at fonts to find fonts that were similar to these on the original, and I drew a lot of lines and arrows, and copy-pasted them all over the place, and I fussed with these things until they looked about right, and …”

That’s right, you guessed it. Her eyes glazed over. She just wasn’t interested. I can’t blame her. She’d spent 15 minutes poking through filing cabinets looking for this piece of paper, and found it so old and crumpled that she couldn’t use it. And fifteen minutes later I handed her a new one that serve her purpose almost as well. She wasn’t going to stand there for fifteen minutes of explanation. You wouldn’t either.

@TieandJeans, though, has YET another take on this…  He talks about the challenges he had in making a seat.  Something as simple as a chair.  It’s challenging, it turns out, to build something that can support your weight while sitting down. Here’s a Magician who knows how to use a laser cutter and a CNC router that can handle plywood. Rufus Opus has still another take on this, in his piece recently about how he wants us all to become magical sovereigns: Let yourself go through the Magus Factory.  Here’s a Maker who has learned to work with a toolkit of words and symbols that alter consciousness.

I’m saying:

The work of Making is integral with the work of making magic.  The work of making magic is integral with the work of Making.

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