Choice

Is choice something that a person gains very simply and suddenly? When a person is told, “You know, you can do that this other way instead – it works better, is more comfortable, healthier, etc.”, does the person automatically have a choice? That choice may be to do the new way. The choice could also be to further learn about the new way in order to do it. And conversely the choice could be to continue doing the old way, with various levels of “traces” of the new information staying in the mind.

Generally, ignorance is a state of not knowing. Is ignorance a state that is inadvertent or willed to exist and continue? Or perhaps both are possible? Maybe more colloquially, ignorance is the latter, willed state of not knowing e.g., not knowing that people of other races have the same feelings I have due to my holding on to not getting to know “them”, maintaining my version of them.

Humans (perhaps all organisms) don’t indiscriminately, voraciously try to get more freedom. When there is an offer of choice and accordingly increased freedom, regardless of the implications e.g., it would make things easier, healthier, etc., the person receiving the offer normally automatically judges whether the particular freedom fits with him/her self (identity, sensibilities, culture, worldview, etc.) ie judging subjectively more than judging objectively whether it makes life better, more effective, or easier. So it’s not necessarily that a person maintaining ignorance is bad or deficient, though our culture may imply to us that that is so.

As a teacher, senior, parent, or other person in a position to guide and nurture others, one is in the position of offering choices and an expanded range of possibilities. Part of the job description may even be to facilitate how the recipient of the offer receives it. This latter piece is where many students probably experience dissatisfaction with the teacher or learning environment. Yet how to overcome whatever stands in the way of acquiring choice, possibility, and freedom is unavoidably something happening within the student. The teacher may facilitate it, but a student attributing ownership of this task to the teacher is certainly and dangerously unproductive, and possibly simply wrong. A student must cultivate his/her own autonomy, paradoxically, in order to better and more constructively receive input from the outside.

Back to the original question. I notice that when I teach a specific movement, e.g., there are certain patterns of the student. Sometimes the person genuinely appears to not grasp what is said and responds to clarification i.e., after clarification seems to go, ok, I think I understand. Sometimes the person genuinely and straightforwardly understands, but initially only on an intellectual level, and of course may struggle to actually implement the suggestion. Sometimes the person enthusiastically receives the suggestion but the way they try to implement it suggests a very (off-)colored way of receiving it i.e., they heard something else or they had a compulsion to appear agreeable or comprehending to the teacher.

Sometimes the person cocks their head, possibly to convey socially acceptable puzzlement, and upon further clarification, the teaching appears to be incompatible with their pre-existing way of seeing and experiencing, such that, if I don’t watch it, I fall into the position of having to persuade them that my way is worth anything. In this situation, it is not about the content e.g., moving your feet this way or that, but the interaction between the teacher and student, or teaching and student’s sensibilities. The underlying internal reaction of the student may be skepticism. However, it is one thing to take in information mindfully and analytically. It is another to see information skeptically, warily, skeptically i.e., with a strong emotional tint. While the foundational relationship between the student and teacher, upon which interactions (giving/receiving) take place, is something to be always cultivated, the stance, or attitude of the student has a large role in determining whether such cultivation is even possible. (Of course the greater, more generous, more patient teacher will still facilitate the student’s overcoming such an unproductive stance.)

Sometimes the person’s response suggests that they are reacting more to the act of being given a suggestion than the suggestion itself. It’s not that they would rather move their foot this way than that; it’s more that they have a reaction to being told something about their feet. This is even more of a reactive situation on the part of the student because it may even happen when the content of the teacher’s suggestion would make sense to the student if he/she could objectively receive it; only the student can’t even reach as far as the rational aspect of the situation. That is, the student is unable to even say, hey, why am I feeling resistance to the suggestion; it makes sense. In this case the teacher would do best to recognize where his/her energy could be directed to improve the situation. If the student came to see that the problem might lie outside of the content of the activity e.g. aikido, the would be even better.

As the person in the role of teacher, I catch myself operating within my set of presumptions when I think, why can’t this person simply get it? The above are just some possible occurrences. It could be plain information overload also. However, in the long-run, when a student sticks with a certain way of doing things as well as relating with teachers, seniors, etc. during which presumably there is a certain balance of accommodating behavior by others and challenging behavior/information, I wonder what keeps that student there in that stasis/equilibrium. How much is it the strength of that student’s inclinations to return/stay where they are vs the external forces challenging and accommodating?

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