Listening to the Symbols of Christmas


Listening to the Symbols of Christmas

safety santaA good way to discern what someone is talking about is to listen to their language, words spoken and unspoken. If someone is talking about ‘learning’ or ‘culture’ and doesn’t speak about embodiment, the unconscious, mystery, wisdom, symbolism, mythology, archetype, personhood, ethics or social Mind, they are NOT talking about learning or culture.

Most often, safety talk about ‘learning’ is about ‘schooling’ or ‘training’. The acquisition of concepts is not learning. Again, when language of ‘culture’ is used in risk and safety it usually means ‘systems’ or ‘behaviours’. Even when the word ‘communication’ is used there is no discussion of listening, unconscious or symbol/myth. If these are omitted then it’s not about communication but at best ‘exchange’. Sure, behaviour is important but the presence or absence of such language helps you understand what the other is talking about. How fascinating that when Safety talks so much about learning and culture it never defines meaning. How can we fathom this?

For example, think about Christmas. You can’t understand Christmas without the ‘language’ of myth and symbol, it’s how we understand Christmas. Even though we know there is no Santa, we accept that the shops are all full of the myth/symbol of a fiction similarly, the myths and symbols of Christian belief. The true meaning of communication is only fulfilled between the unconscious and conscious Mind by virtue of myth/symbol. Meaning is not grounded in propositional or conceptual thinking but symbolic thinking. Myth and symbol are the flip side of the same thing, one can’t have one without the other. The same too for learning.

It was this kind of thinking that led Jung and Deleuze to understand the nature of learning and culture. This article is heavy reading but offers helpful insight for people in the world of risk and safety. Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

  • ‘Learning always takes place in and through the unconscious’ – in other words, learning must be holistic and all-inclusive of the non-conscious to be learning.
  • ‘Becoming-other is established via ‘diversity, multiplicity (and) the destruction of identity’ – in other words, learning doesn’t occur unless one’s present identity (embodied personhood) is under threat.
  • ‘The unpredictable lines of transversal connections presuppose not the transmission of the same but the creation of the different’ – in other words, learning must embrace the becoming of what one is not in the present but who one is becoming. Learning is about brining into being a meaning that doesn’t currently exists. Absorbing concepts is not learning, just as the repetition of algorithms is not learning.
  • ‘The scapegoat psychology is associated with what Neumann called the old ethic as adherence to illusionary perfection and the absolute Good that necessarily leads to the appearance of its exact opposite, the absolute evil’ – in other words, the quest for perfection fosters the ‘old ethic’ grounded in scapegoat psychology. Scapegoating is foundational to the safety industry, driven by its love of zero. The first lesson in zero is the projection of blame.

We all absorb the mythology of Christmas unconsciously that is, we don’t ‘think’ about it.

I currently have a 3 year old grandson who is just ‘learning’ (getting embodied and enculturated) how to ‘Christmas’. Christmas for him is not a concept but an experience, explaining Christmas conceptually to him is nonsense. Learning is much more than the cognition of concepts.

It was fascinating for him to ‘realise’ the nature of presents for the first time. Nothing is more real to human being than the nature of territory, property and possession. At one strange he saw presents lying about, including some not his own and asked for a plastic bag, he collected these ‘things’ and filled the bag and started to walk off to another room. I asked him, ‘what are you doing?’, he said ‘these are mine’. So, he ventured off to another room on his own and proceeded to play with the contents of the bag. Kids provide such amazing insight into the nature of learning and culture. When ego is central, why should I share? He is yet to ‘learn’ any of the common ‘cultural’ defence mechanisms associated with Socialitie. And until these are intuited and embodied, they will never be unconscious.

None of this is propositional or conceptual for a three year old, it has to become his experience. Ethics is not a set of concepts, morality is not about propositions. Unless ethics is existential it is never ‘learned’.

And so, it is to Safety, we see so much of the language about ‘learning’ is about the absorption of propositions and concepts. Then somehow this becomes ‘differently’? Yet, nothing fundamentally changes, the existential dimension remains the same – systems remain the same, focus the same, methodology the same, language the same – there is no ‘differently. The ‘being’ of safety is the same, there has been no existential movement, no learning.

As we enter the festive season we have an opportunity to ‘learn’ the existential nature of learning and culture through the symbols and myths of Christmas. What have we absorbed? What is intuitional? What is cultural? What is embodied? What is unconscious? What is archetypically powerful? What is happening to persons? What it ethical?

Once we have understood these questions (not answers) then apply them to the nature of the safety-zero industry and see what you see.



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