In this day and age, learning requires becoming and being comfortable with ambiguity and finding our way through a tunnel in which the end may not be in sight (or, in fact, in which there may not be an end).
Since turbulent conditions appear everywhere and pervade our lives in both time and space, learning in permanent white water conditions is and will continue to be a constant way of life for all of us — thus the phrase learning as a way of being … Permanent white water is felt — as confusion and loss of direction and control. (pp. 42-23)
My own experience writing my dissertation was about finding my way through my topic to make sense of it — the process of doing it is how I made meaning of what I wanted to know. Many times I was lost, and it was not easy. It took a long time. I cried (once). (Ok, more than once.) But I worked through it.
Mac knows all this – he works through this tunnel or a similar metaphorical one each and every day! However, because he is relatively new to the world, he doesn’t have to contend with the challenges that we “older” learners have, specifically, as Vaill reminds us, that our prior learning may need updating:
What happens to so many of us, of course, is that we lose freshness and openness of perception as our learning accumulates and accretes, as we come to see ourselves as knowing a lot. . . We are all deeply programmed to believe that learning is a process of “getting it right” . . . [but] permanent white water thus makes perpetual beginners of us all. Almost nothing we have learned is immune from challenge and change, which means we had better be prepared to undergo the sometimes painful process of admitting that much of our past learning is obsolete, and returning to the beginner mode. (pp. 80 – 81)
But – what has Mac taught me about being in the beginner mode?
Learning can be fun!