Distractions from What Is Real

Have you noticed? It’s getting pretty wacky out there: joggers bumping into street signs while texting. People seem generally stressed, not that this is new, just more, and it shows. The ice sheets are melting. Some predict “stratification” of the polar oceans will trigger a slowdown or even eventual shutdown of the circulation in the Atlantic Ocean and a weakening of another circulation system in the southern ocean. Isn’t a ‘shutdown of circulation’ what happens in a heart attack - of the planet?

Themes: 
language
children as teachers

Featured Insight - Unfolding Language

I loved this insight when we first recorded it and I love it today. Here Joe describes the origins of language itself. We all know that the use of symbols and metaphors is the defining capacity that distinguishes human beings from all other species. What we take for granted is the awesome computing power needed to describe how to get to the market and to decode and understand the message. It’s almost unbelievable. Our use and misuse of this truly miraculous capacity is both our saving grace and our downfall. Language opens the door to the causal nature of consciousness and it is the source of fearful selfish egos that will sell another’s soul for a nickel. At thirteen months young Carly Elizabeth is beginning to understand ‘let’s read a book.’ She doesn’t know what that means in a literal sense but she does know it means sitting in my lap and turning pages.

Themes: 
language

The importance of storytelling

The importance of storytelling
Joseph Chilton Pearce

I remember my mother, my grandmother storytelling; I was always on their lap. There’s an enormous amount of exchange, bonding as we call it, the continual reinforcement of that relationship. If the adult is willing to enter into the inner world fully the inner world of the adult and the child will be shared.

One of the powerful reasons for storytelling by the way is sitting on the lap. Now, the minute you have a child on your lap or up against you and nested up to you and you’re telling a story two or three things happen. The field surrounding the body, you can call it anything you like but certainly there is one, the two fields are overlapping. The reason the child must be given a face pattern at 6-12 inches away at birth is because they can only perceive within that 6-12 inches. That has to be, if you don’t mind the word, subtle field, their subtle energy must be invaded by the parent. That is the parent must be within that field as they certainly were with the child when it’s in-utero. And I think the bedtime story, we’re down very close to the child, we’re very close in, a close distance or the child is on our lap.

I remember my mother, my grandmother storytelling, I was always on their lap and it was partly the sonority of their voice and resonance of their body as it resonated their voice, and above all their connection. So there’s an enormous amount of exchange their and bonding as we’d want to call it, the continual reinforcement of that relationship, as well as if both, if you enter into the inner world fully because they’re shared in the worlds and effect. So, the difference of inner worlds, the inner world of imagination, the ability to create a marvelous inner scenarios is not just socially acceptable, it’s the way to go. The model is the way. 

M:        You have said that this unfoldment of the imagination is the foundation for all higher learning. Help me understand what you mean by that.

J:          One of the first things you find a child does, we’ll start and do with a story has become very familiar with them, the reason for them wanting the same story over and over and over. As we say we know it’s not to learn the story because they’ll correct you on the second time you tell them if you mess up.  So it’s not that.  It’s because the enormous challenge to the brain of creating a series of moving images all connecting together, challenging every facet of the brain, and you’re having to build new neural connections between fields, establishing field connections at a very rapid rate and finally they stabilize and that particular story becomes a, it’s image flow which can then be distinct from story.  You’re not talking about that.  You are simply here to establish new rules, structures, stimulate them, brought them into play, the connection with all the rest of the neural fields needed in the brain system which most neural matter is being created in the brain as a response of the challenge. 

Now once that stabilizes then the child has at their disposal, you see, a whole inner world and their immediate desire will be to project it onto the external world. Look momma, look daddy, in effect. And so, what they’ll do is they’ll want to act the story out or play the story out in their external world and they do this by projection. They take the inner image and they project it onto an external image and then modify, because all this is internal brain operations which in the self-organizing system, they modify the external image by the internal image and play in a modulated world, so to speak.

The parent becomes parts of The Three Bears story and the soup on the table can be porridge and so on.  They’ll project onto their immediate surroundings the story that they have created an internal image. So that completes the circuitry. They find that the can be impressed by this story, they create the inner world and then they can change their external world with it. If the parents will cooperate and go on and be the big bear and mamma bear, then the child finds that their internal capacity for this image making can profoundly affect their external world and here their will-power and self-esteem and feeling of being and having some dominion over your world as its foundation. 

Then we get into, this will lead you right in to the later forms of imaginative play. When the child sees an activity going on in their adult world or their models out there and they want to emulate it. At this point they will create an internal image of an external event and then take the internal image and project it onto some object that they can control in their external world.

I always use the example since it’s very real to me and having undergone it of seeing the great machine running down the road, mashing everything flat, building the road when I was child and the road roller was the most impressive sight of my life and I was blown away by it and it burned its way into my brain. And then looking around I had no road roller, we had very few toys, and finally a little spool in my mother’s sewing kit and holding it up and immediately it was the target for my projection and I saw it as this beautiful road roller. It became that. And for hours I was making all the appropriate noises. I’ve observed this in my own children in every conceivable way. I was seizing a little clothespin and draping some things around, here’s a beautiful princess and the matchbox becomes a bed, the nail or truck and boat and so on and so forth.

Now the ability to see one object in another object is metaphoric, symbolic thinking. It’s the foundations of both metaphor and symbol which underlies all alphabets, mathematical systems, philosophical notions, and so on and so forth. Even religious systems on and on they go, chemical form and so on, all rest on that simple capacity of seeing one thing as another. So, the thought if we can look at E = MC2, which is a meaningless batch of hen scratches and right meaning into it. E stands for energy, here are the signs for equality and M for mass and so on and so forth. If we can tear up the whole world with it. If we can then then take that idea and manipulate our world with it. So the foundation of all metaphoric symbolic thinking is in that critical seven year period, the first seven years of life which all the child wants to do is play or be told stories. What is that play and storytelling? It’s building the foundations of metaphoric symbolic thinking.

If we shortcut that, again it’s a form of intellectual interference or separation from the natural intelligence by forcing the child into premature metaphoric symbolic thinking of a highly abstract nature such as the alphabets and so on. Some children will be ready for it early. Some precocious children can do it. Some children can do it but at a great price, you see. The price is whole in its fullness. The rest of the system being met with its necessary environmental stimuli. So it’s much better to put off all of the abstract applications of metaphor and symbol only until that developmental period is complete.

Symbolic and metaphoric processing

Symbolic and metaphoric processing
Joseph Chilton Pearce

Now the moment you begin to tell a child a story and they catch on to what happens, you can never feed them enough stories and I am talking about very, very early, long before they are learning to speak. If they have attached name-labels to objects they then catch on to storytelling. The word of the story comes in and instantly the brain goes into full operation. Full entrainment we call it. Every ounce of the brain, all levels, total cooperation is needed to create the flow of inner images, and connecting them together.

We have our child who has a visual stimulus. They see a something which galvanizes the whole system to move toward it and interact with it if it’s within the safe confines of the nest which is the parental environment. And then they want a name for it. Give them the name for it after they’ve tasted it, touched it, felt it, smelt it, and looked at it intently and so on, all of which of course is built in as an auditory image with all the sensory maps concerning it, a full construction of knowledge of that, and the name is given, the name being an integral part of that new structure. What is the advantage of that? The name can call forth or bring forth an activation of those neural patterns, those neural fields and all the association they imply. So that, in the absence of the object, the name. What does the brain do? It calls up the image of it, what we think of as memory. It may not be quite as clear but it is a reasonable facsimile of it. Now, what is the advantage of that?

Well, let’s look at the next aspect of nature’s agenda, the unfolding game going on here, we find in play and in storytelling. We find that the early child when it is still in-arms, long before the lolling, the babbling they do begins; they are intensely fascinated with adult speech. The get very quiet and look intensely at the adults talking. Why? Because word has started to profoundly affect their whole physical muscular system from the seventh month in utero on. Now, when we start telling a child a story, as soon as comprehension of words has been established, as soon as enough objects have been named, that we have neural fields in the brain cognizing objects as named events, enough of these named events to create a series of images and the internal world begins to form and storytelling begins to open up.

Now the moment you begin to tell a child a story and they catch on to what happens, you can never feed them enough stories and I am talking about very, very early, long before they are learning to speak. If they have attached name-labels to objects they then catch on to storytelling. The word of the story comes in and instantly the brain goes into full operation. Full entrainment we call it. Every ounce of the brain, all levels of the brain, what takes total cooperation of the entire brain to create the flow of inner images, and connecting them together. Now, what does connecting these images together do? These individual name-label objects that the brain has built up, created a pattern for, what we call a sensory map, but these are individual maps in the brain. But now we are getting a series of words all connected together which are firing in images. If we keep the story going and repeat if enough these different fields of the brain start connecting or linking together. Long axons link together connecting heretofore unlinked fields and with use over and over they begin to myelinate. They begin to lock in as mature, permeant fields. The brain is literally growing more and more connecting links and extending their operations more and more, involving more and more of the brain in a single story. It challenges the brain on every level. Because you are hitting it from an auditory-visual stand point and that demands the majority of the brains capacities.

Bruno Bettelheim insisted that the child was always picking up from the environment, the parent, the teacher the society, on two levels. One was what they were physically saying or looking like experienced physically, and the other is how they were feeling. We know that is the case. If these, by the way are in conflict, if the adult is smiling on the outside and crying on the inside the child is in ambiguity, totally confused, because the signals more or less cancel the other out. And the same thin in the pointing syndrome. The child picks up the parents negative feeling about the object even though they don’t express it physically. Obviously, the same thing will take place in storytelling because the parent, when they are telling the child a story are imaging and feeling themselves.

Many people don’t think they can image internally but the brain operates primarily by imaging. Most transfer of what we think of as information in the brain, in blocks, take place through imagery. They speak of auditory imagery as well as visual imagery in the brain. So you have that shared imagery, which is linked intimately with language as a function.

Now, the strongest thing a parent can do with storytelling is the bed time story. If the parent will make up or remember stories to tell, in the dark, they will find in themselves that imager becomes extremely clear and bright. And I have often been suspicious that the prolonged imagery in storytelling between parent and child that the imagery might be shared. We do know that lucid dreams can be shared. This has been established beyond question. We do know that hypnotic dreaming can be shared between two people. They can enter into shared internal imagery between themselves. So, the probability of this happening between parent and child is extremely strong. I know it is the case because it happened with me and my daughter. That enters in as another realm of communication that storytelling sets up.

Essential Joseph Chilton Pearce 57

Play, Imagination & Language
Joseph Chilton Pearce

When reading or telling a child a story the stimulus coming in is ‘word.’ The responds in the brain is ‘imagery.’ When you pair the word with an image, as with video and computer programs, there is nothing for the high brain to do. No activity in the prefrontal regions. No demand made on the neocortex. The image is already there present to the sensory system. Researchers took television programs for the five and six year old and switched the sound tracks. The sound no longer matched the image and played this to hundreds of children across the country. The majority of children did not notice the discrepancy. This exploded the notion of education through television. There is no education through television which has now been replaced by computer and tablets. There is nothing really ‘learned.’ The child will be entertained and remember impressions. But this is not learning.

Essential Joseph Chilton Pearce 56

Play, Imagination, Television & Media
Joseph Chilton Pearce

Historically imaginative play involved acting out the story suggested by the Saturday matinee. It wasn’t mimicry, reflexive copying. It was acting out the story line, let’s pretend, which is a vastly different developmental activity. Watching a radiant screen impacts the brain differently than the light reflected off a traditional movie screen. Television-computer screens produce a passive, trance-like state that is extremely difficult for the child to withdraw from. Producers of children’s programing insist on a minimum number of violent acts per minute to insure continued attention. All of this deeply conditions the developing brain in was that are far different from storytelling and imaginative play.

Essential Joseph Chilton Pearce 55

Storytelling, Imagination & Play
Joseph Chilton Pearce

Storytelling and the ability to create internal images not present to the senses leads to play. Play is the way children learn. Learning is interacting. This interaction is scripted by story. Story promotes play and around and around we go unfolding evermore complex stories, interaction, learning and development. Screen experience bypasses this creative developmental dynamic. Vision media and computers bypass the later evolutionary development of imagination and replace it with reflexive mimicry. This leads to a very different brain and with it a very different self-world-view and quality of relationships. Heavy doses of social media promote compulsive-addictive narcissism, something rapidly spreading in the wake of social media and increasingly mobile computers.

Essential Joseph Chilton Pearce 52

Storytelling vs Television
Joseph Chilton Pearce

The central issue is how the brain receives and processes information. Storytelling is symbolic and metaphoric, using language to stimulate the inner image. Television and computers bypass this higher evolutionary imaginative structure leaving it undeveloped during the critical early years. Later, when abstract academic demands are made, the child has no neural foundation to process highly symbolic and abstract information. We retard our children’s development in the early years and condemn them for failure later. With screen-media mimicry is the primary response. Violent content elicits violent behavior. Storytelling is creatively empowering. The child is creating the images they act our playfully.

Essential Joseph Chilton Pearce 49

Imagination, Storytelling and Attention
Joseph Chilton Pearce

Storytelling demands that the developing brain create a stream of inner images that correspond to the moment by moment flow of words in the story, an astonishing feat. This requires complete entrainment, complete attention. With video and computer images the inner image is externally generated, requiring very little, weak, passive attention and this inattention becomes a conditioned reflex and a major reason or the epidemic of attention deficits. Storytelling forces the brain to grow new neural connections. Visual media does not. In fact, visual, screen media bypasses the imaginative structures by bringing the image in through the much older visual system, rather than the much more evolved symbolic-metaphoric imaging we call imagination.

Essential Joseph Chilton Pearce 46

Play, Imagination & Language
Joseph Chilton Pearce

Semantic language distinguishes us from any other life form. Language lifts us up into a higher order of functioning. Language development begins in utero. By the seventy month in utero the developing human begins to form unique but precise physical movements to the phonemes of the mother’s speech. This physical patterning to phonetic sounds continues at a micro level throughout one’s life. Language is grounded in the body. Early language helps the young child make since of his or her body movements. Ask the two year old to say sit, and they sit while repeating the word. Infants and young children therefore pay rapt attention to adult speech and respond at every level: physical, emotional, psychological. They are associating word-symbols to the images they see.

Pages