Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"We are nature" and nature is fractal, so let's work with that idea

Yes, we are nature.
We are a connection of cells, in relationship with each other. Cells that have decided to live together in a coordinated fashion to enhance their own lives. The ultimate coordinator, supporter, manager, protector and initiator of all this multicellular existence and function is the nervous system, and, before it, ectoderm. 

The river running through us, and through each nerve, through our whole nervous system, is our blood supply. 

At every level of function, a more complex version of this nervous system can interrupt and substitute another pattern upon a function - provided all the cells can make the right kind of proteins, and provided the immune system remains obedient to the nervous system, and doesn't try to stage some kind of coup d'├ętat.


Out in the social world, things often seem organized along similar principles. In fact, society (any society, based on any idea, in any era) seems to make every effort to convince us there is a vast social order with us residing at the bottom.
Mostly, schooling reinforces this. Please see Seth Godin's remarkable little free e-book all about this; Stop Stealing Dreams. It's great. He would like to see schooling change, a lot. So would I.

Here are a few excerpts, and some thoughts I have about the profession I inhabit. And am trying to not just redecorate, but renovate, from the studs out. From:
Stop Stealing Dreams - - Seth Godin


1. "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for
humanity." Horace Mann, Civil War era, who installed public schooling.

2. " To efficiently run a school, amplify fear and reduce passion....fear must be used to keep the masses in line... the flip side.. is that passion will be destroyed. There's no room for someone who wants to go faster, something else, or someone who cares about a particular issue."

3. "There really are only two tools available to the educator.
"The easy one is fear.”
"Fear is easy to awake, easy to maintain, but ultimately toxic."
"The other tool is passion. A kid in love with dinosaurs or baseball or earth science is going to learn it on her own. She’s going to push hard for ever more information, and better still, master the thinking behind it."

4. "The industrial structure of school demands that we teach things for certain. Testable things. Things beyond question. After all, if topics are open to challenge, who will challenge them? Our students. But students aren’t there to challenge—they are there to be indoctrinated, to accept and obey... The obligation of the new school is to teach reasonable doubt. Not the unreasonable doubt of the wild-eyed heckler, but the evidence-based doubt of the questioning scientist and the reason-based doubt of the skilled debater."

My "profession" (physiotherapy) is WAY tilted toward factory style learning and delivery. When I think about it, I'm rare in that my passion managed to stay alive somehow... I carefully nurtured it, like some subversive. I have a LOT of gripes about my profession, and now I see that most of them revolve around style, same style as Seth Godin is saying is obsolete, not because my interior human primate social grooming instincts were wrong. (These instincts were right all along. The style of "training" almost killed them! Good example - the deliberate imposition of biomechanical thinking upon otherwise [already perfect] human primate social grooming in manual therapy. Teaching groomers to groom too hard, too fast, too deep, too operatively. Not letting the brains of the patient, their critter brain and human brain, the opportunity to make new sense from new input, together, and mutually pleasantly. )

5. "One of the things that school is for is to teach our children to understand and relish the idea of intellectualism, to develop into something more than a purpose-driven tool for the industrial state."

The zombie model.
Is it any wonder zombie movies are so popular?
I caught up on movies while flying to and from Brazil. One of them was WorldWar Z with Brad Pitt.
Maybe zombie movies are a clue that pushback is happening against the outer social world having tried to turn us *into* zombies. Or at least intellectually suppressed, domesticated humans.

6. "An artist is someone who brings new thinking and generosity to his work, who does human work that changes another for the better. An artist invents a new kind of insurance policy, diagnoses a disease that someone else might have missed, or envisions a future that’s not here yet. And a linchpin is the worker we can’t live without, the one we’d miss if she was gone. The linchpin brings enough gravity, energy, and forward motion to work that she makes things happen."

Can any physiotherapist be either, given our (ahem) "training"?
Remember, our training teaches us:
1. Outdated concepts
2. In order to pass exams
3. To prepare us for an industrial version of health care
4. That has little or nothing to do with actual individuals or their needs to have their main positive feedback loop interrupted.
... See Erik Meira's blogpost about positive feedback loops, , fear being the main one, and how we must break these loops to help people return to "thoughtless, fearless movement" as per Louis Gifford (2005).

Passion and drive and some intelligent reworking of concepts, plus some decent information about how the nervous system works, how pain works, could reverse a lot of zombie-like behaviour in my profession and restart its engine, rekindle peoples' intelligence/critical thinking, ability to entertain doubt, embrace uncertainty, reboot PT's effectiveness out there in the world. Support its capacity to become way more than it is right at the moment..

7. "What we *do* need is someone to persuade us that we *want* to learn those things, and someone to push us or encourage us or create a space where we want to learn to do them better."

Exactly what the PT profession needs... more teachers willing to be honest about how zombified our profession made us/we let ourselves become, how we each have to take steps that point away from this.

8. "In a post-industrial school, there is no us and them. Just us."

And in an ideal post-graduate manual therapy class, there is no "patient" vs. "professional"; there is only the nervous system, and how to learn to help it work smoother so it doesn't bother the person living inside it so much.

What a lot of work it would save everyone if this were just taught matter-of-factly at the
undergraduate level!

9. "Every great teacher you have ever had the good luck of learning from is doing the irreplaceable labor of real teaching. They are communicating emotion, engaging, and learning from the student in return. Emotional labor is difficult and exhausting, and it cannot be tweaked or commanded by management."
"As our society industrialized, it has relentlessly worked to drive labor away and replace it with work. Mere work. Busywork and repetitive work and the work of Taylor’s scientific management. Stand just here. Say just that. Check this box."
(Evaluation forms, anyone?)
"I'm arguing that the connection revolution sets the table for a return of emotional labor. For the first time in a century, we have the opportunity to let digital systems do work while our teachers do labor."
"But that can only happen if we let teachers be teachers again." - Seth Godin

As PTs, we are educators crossed with animal trainers. I say that because mostly we deal with critter brains in people. Just because they are in people doesn't mean they aren't critter brains. We want them to stop biting the person trapped in there with them.
We have to educate nervous systems out of doing whatever they are doing that doesn't work, and help them learn how to do something else. That "something else" is not under our direct control. It will always be under the control of that particular nervous system, unique and individual. All we can do is our best, and hope for the best. Nothing is for certain.
Still, we have to do our best.

At the profession level, we have to stop seeing ourselves as trained monkeys, eager to perform for mere cucumber slices or grapes dished out only if the “health care” system approves of our behaviour, and develop our reasoning and critical thinking capacities. How else will this profession truly grow up and become a real profession?

10. "Leadership isn’t something that people hand to you. You don’t do followership for years and then someone anoints you and says, “here.” In fact, it’s a gradual process, one where you take responsibility years before you are given authority. And that’s something we can teach."

11. "The librarian isn’t a clerk who happens to work at a library. A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa, and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user."

My sister is a librarian.

12. "Five years from now, electronic readers will be as expensive as Gillette razors, and e-books will cost less than the blades...Librarians who are arguing and lobbying for clever e-book lending solutions are completely missing the point. They are defending the library-as-warehouse concept, as opposed to fighting for the future, which is librarian as producer, concierge, connector, teacher, and impresario... "We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime."

We need PTs too. What we don't need are zombie PTs who fill out paper reports and forms and micro-manage. We need PTs who are willing to stick their necks out and teach more people how to be caring human primate social groomers, and to he11 with any negative opinions on my choice of language for *this* valuable service we can easily provide, once we know what is actually entailed..

"I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who sought and found out how to serve."– Albert Schweitzer, via Seth Godin

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