The semblance of truth

The quote below gets a little deep, but it got me thinking.  It is from the book The End of Absence by Michael Harris.

“In Plato’s Phaedrus, we hear Socrates describing how a king from Egypt called Thalmus informed the god Theuth that the phonetic alphabet was not so great a gift . . . The god . . . (bragged) that writing would make the memories of Egyptians more powerful and that it would supercharge their wit.  King Thamus shrewdly replies:

O most ingenious Thueth . . . this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learner’s souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.  The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing.”

I know, this sounds like a Luddite, anti-technology person.  But if you have ever dealt with anyone who spouts off some theory or opinion based on what they “read on the Internet”, you may be getting at the sentiment of this excerpt. If you have ever dealt with a teen in a school learning environment who gets all of their knowledge from Google or Wikipedia in lieu of reading a book, this excerpt has a ring of truth to it.  If you receive e-mails with the “truth” from grandma or your friend or your crazy neighbor, this excerpt is talking to you.

Technology is not bad in isolation.  But the use of it to gain the “semblance of truth” is endemic in today’s world.  The unwillingness of people to challenge what they read or see is the problem.  The “forgetfulness in the learner’s souls” means that discernment is missing.  The first answer or the easy answer or the answer-that-best-meets-my-original-hypothesis becomes THE ANSWER.   And that is where the technology is not such a wonderful gift.

The challenge for us is to recognize this willingness to rely on this aid in ourselves.  Are we willing to read beyond the first answer?  Are we willing to have an open mind?  Are we willing to work hard to make something a memory?  It is tough to get others to do that, but our thinking is in our hands.

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Awareness, Change and Coaching

I was reviewing some information for my last week of school at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and ran across a quote that helps sum up the program – and coaching as well. The quote addresses what a good coaching session should focus on. The quote said a good coaching session should be:

“Emphasizing the change in awareness, not the change”

I like the quote because it is concise, to the point and pretty clear. The good coach is working with the client to build awareness.  The Greek philosopher Thales said, “The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself”.  A coach is present to work alongside another to take on that most difficult task.

A coaching session should begin with the intention that there may be some thought that needs to be brought from unconsciousness to consciousness.  Perhaps the client needs to become more mindful of something.  At other times, just spending quality time with some concept brings new awareness.  I’ve found that saying things out loud to another person brings realizations that were not present before.  When something profound occurs, we like to call the “Aha” moments.  Your awareness is changed.

This goes with the idea that we cannot know where we are going without first knowing where we are.  The awareness we build helps with the “where we are”.

A good coach is not trying to change someone else or tell someone how to change. Change does not come from some outsider, like a coach, telling a person to change. In fact, there are times where the other person may not even need to change.  They just needed awareness.

Many are familiar with the phrase “we don’t know what we don’t know”.  If as a coach I am able to help someone know a little more, I am doing what I am able to do.