A tree can be a wonderful image for growth of knowledge, the spreading branches suggesting the neural network that grows in our brains over time. Its limitation is its separateness. Though its branches may intermingle with others, it’s individual treeness is unchanged. A different idea is suggested by ripples from a pebble. They hit a rock and start another ripple and the interactions between create more complex patterns.
This reminded me of a line in the I Ching.
“Knowledge should be a refreshing and vitalizing force. It becomes so only through stimulating interchange with congenial friends with whom one holds discussion and practices application of the truths of life. In this way learning becomes many sided and takes on a cheerful lightness, whereas there is always something ponderous and one-sided about the learning of the self-taught.”
When people surround themselves with the like-minded they close themselves off from the richness possible in the interaction of ideas. Many times, when bouncing off the ideas of others I’ve had ideas I never had before. The interaction of different ways of seeing creates the opportunity for them to combine in different ways, for our big picture models to grow and evolve. Whereas the right/wrong model uses mental power to defend a particular view, a model that pools ideas adds ripples to the pattern.
Primary to skill in happiness is the skill of steering attention. The body/ego/identity through which consciousness experiences, is packed with conditioned patterns of reaction, some are basic to physical survival and some are result of psychological strategies that protected the sense of control over actions. Old patterns can capture the energy and conscious attention and pull us into the rest of the pattern if we don’t pause. Recognizing the conditioned patterns is what gives the choice. In awareness, we can extend that moment and choose.
The reason to have an energizing project of any kind is because it offers a compelling alternative to the thought and behavior patterns that chain the unaware. Elyn Sachs in her Ted Talk said the best defense against mental illness is a challenging project. It could simply be to study something. As I know from a computer game typing tutor, there are all kinds of games that combine learning with pleasure. And learning itself is pleasure. We get endorphins from it. Challenge also stimulates the pleasure center. Take up drawing, learn an instrument, study a language. Building knowledge increases self-regard based on real achievement. There is so much that can be learned that deepens understanding over the whole of life. The secret to having self-respect is in the satisfaction of building your power. Skill and knowledge reside inside, are not external and not so easily lost.
Wherever your attention gravitates, follow it, look deeper. Everything gets more interesting as more is learned. Find others that share the interest and enjoy the benefit of different angles on it.
When attention is directed outward, it builds new patterns, correlating them with the old, interweaving other perspectives and enriching the application of new knowledge.