Yesterday I had the pleasure of re-joining the Developmental Philosophy Class, taught by Dr. Fred Newman, here in New York City. Newman is a Stanford-trained philosopher who has been my friend, colleague and teacher for many, many years. Learning philosophy and politics from Fred has enriched my life in more ways than I can express in words. So it was joyous to be back in class this week. You can read more about Fred Newman at his website: http://www.frednewmanphd.com/
In a previous blog post I referenced a paper that Fred recently wrote with Dr. Lenora Fulani called “Let’s Pretend” [http://bit.ly/lqyVaC] — the class was an opportunity for us to discuss our understandings of pretending and its relationship to development and transformation. In the course of our philosophical conversation I deepened my ability to recognize the ways that we are overly cognitive in our understanding of ourselves and the world. Cognition is, of course, important and our cognitive bias prevents us from embracing the fact that we are a performing species.
Fred shared with us how he learned to ride a bike as an adult while he was at Stanford. His friend told him to get on the bike and pretend that he is a bicycle rider. He wasn’t “pretending to learn to ride a bike”, which was our overly cognitive way of understanding Fred’s story. In the moment of learning to ride a bike if you start to think “oh boy, I’m riding a bike!” it’s not uncommon to fall off the bike. The activity demands full attention. This is an important distinction — it is not a cognitive activity — it is a performance.
There comes a moment when we stop pretending and we become (in the case of Fred’s story, a bike rider), therein lies the transformation.
For the world to transform — along with all of its people — we will have to create new paths to take and that will require “a lot of pretending”.