Open Thinkering


Changing thinking vs. Changing systems.

I’m reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at the moment. It’s a bit of a classic, so I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to it.

Last night, I came across the following passage. It must be quite famous as I’ve stumbled across it before:

But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.

This made me think about Purpos/ed. Andy and I are often asked when we’re going to produce a manifesto, or what the ‘next level’ is. Well, that’s the kind of thinking that got us here in the first place.

Pirsig reminds us that even things that seem purely physical (such as steel) are nevertheless human constructs. Despite seeming permanent and ‘natural’ steel is not a substance that exists in nature. It’s the product of human imagination.

Likewise, there is no ‘state of nature’ for education systems. No natural way that we should organise learning.

We’d do well to remember that sometimes.

4 thoughts on “Changing thinking vs. Changing systems.

    1. Well first and foremost we need a debate, a way of changing people’s thinking. We also need some real engagement with issues rather than soundbites.
      At the moment, the second of those sounds like a pipe dream. Thankfully, the first is possible through Purpos/ed!

  1. Part of me is beginning to wonder if ‘tool’ creation is part of the answer. Can we create (digital & conceptual & pedagogical in the case of education) tools that will shape society for the better? Should we? If so, what might they look like? 

  2. There is so much food for thought there. Because in as much as we acknowledge this deep layer, the unseen part of the iceberg, we still seem to have no (quick) solutions. Deeply embedded values,  behaviors and modes of thinking are the hardest to change – especially in a complex society. 

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