confession…catching a feather on a fan..

I have ‘been away’…

This is what I wrote to myself a week ago:

“Doing and Being…

I sometimes get too down about there being so much to do. The things I am interested in and working on turn into jobs. They become something I have to do. They become overwhelming and ‘I’ am ‘brought down’. It is true that I demand a lot of myself, as we all should. I hate that ‘should’ idea. For example yesterday I was again designing a rebuild of an old conservatory. There are specific building regulations to which it must conform. I am not a builder or architect and so I have to think, raise awarenesses and ‘work’. Also, it is interesting but not easy to give enough time to learning arabic, never mind normal activities such as playing with rods…or other rod-related items…

I think (‘I know I should’ always be tentative about ‘explanations’). The ‘psychic’ situation probably arises when I start to sense unfinished wholes. Instead of just carrying on, bit by enjoyable bit (which is mostly the case), this ‘feeling’ of ‘pointless doingness’ begins to take over. At first I think I just force myself to carry on but then (I know) I get tired. Yes, tired quite quickly, and then this overwhelming ennui takes over. The useful energy is depleted. Nothing is worth doing and it all seems rather pointless. (This is the extreme version of that which I am trying to communicate). When I wake up in the morning ‘I’ don’t know what ‘is worth doing’.

This is what should be understood…..unless…

The mind begins to shoulder out being. The mind in the form of the constructed entity called Jackson with the story of its self becomes identified with tasks. The self becomes the tasks. The balance between thinking about the jobs in their entirety and direct experience in the moment begins to shift.  The image of the total endeavors, which belong to the mind rather than the immediate experience of the detail, which belongs to being, begins to dominate. It is time to allow the shift to begin to favour being in the present moment. This means more meditative states need nurturing. The extreme is maybe to return to pure meditation. In my case, this extreme form means periods of Chan Silent Illumination or Shattering the Great Doubt through gongan (koan) or huatou.

They are two ‘ways’, which are not ways… The other is to remain aware of the situation that has arisen and mindfully undertake any activity that spontaneously arises without volition. I.e. by not allowing the mind to construct edifices of challenge.

In other words time to take a break from maya, to ignore thinking, thought, and just be aware without the ten thousand things.

gongan: Three monks, Seppo, Kinzan and Ganto were in the temple garden. Seppo noticed a pail of water and pointed to it. Kinzan said, “The water is clear and the moon is reflected.” “No, no,” said Seppo. “It is not water, it is not moon.” Ganto upset the pail.

Kick over the object of attachment…”

huatou: allow the feather to rest upon the fan

like learning a language…

Some methods, especially those that rely on memory and de-contextualised vocabulary and intense grammar are awful. They start with lists of words and complexities of grammar that generally mean something to those who have studied grammar in their own language but feel so fragmented and distant from speaking that one senses its going to be very hard going. The best (in my opinion) way of learning a language is through a live course using ‘The Silent Way’, which was created by Caleb Gattegno as he learnt how people learn. Some other methods however such as the Michel Thomas courses are very good for learning at home. I personally am learning arabic using this method and find in some ways it is like learning maths in the style of the subordination of teaching to learning. I could not find a course on arabic using ‘The Silent Way’.

One immediately feels useful learning is taking place and a certain hopefulness and confidence to continue takes over. It feels optimistic and fruitful. Arabic is a bit tricky because of the written language, the unfamiliar sounds and the unfamiliar words having in general no Latin roots. Most words are completely different to what an english speaker knows and the word order and other things are also unfamiliar.

OK so this sounds a bit like coming across mathematical ideas when you are little.

The knowing use of algebraic ideas in simple conversations and question and answer ‘sessions’ using the rods is similarly freeing and powerful. You can just see it so easily in the children’s eyes and actions. There must be no pressure at all. Certainly no pressure to write anything down, unless it comes from the children, and even then do not force them to ‘write it down correctly’. Do not ‘be a teacher’ in that sense. Bide your time.

Look at Caleb Gattegno’s  ‘Mathematics with Numbers in Colour’ Book 1, part II, ‘Qualitative Work with the Rods.’  ONLINE…

Don’t take it as a ‘course’, just read it through three times:

1. As if you were reading a newspaper

2. As if you were reading it out aloud to another person and

3. Try and fathom the general flow and gist of the chapter.


Jackson and I…

The other one, the one called Jackson has worked in education since 1970, in many schools and a university. He has been privileged to work with a very wide range of people, from 4 to 80 years, many children, many adults, many courses… I read in the sunlight on my summerhouse porch then tend vegetables. I know of him from the letters and emails he receives. I like playing with my grandchildren, constructing images and reading Borges. I chase froth on the beach with a large camera. He shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. I am quite aware of his custom of treating things he thinks of as precious. All things long to persist in their being. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and travelled in distant lands but all that is far way, playing those games with time and infinity. I shall now imagine other things. Thus my life, as all, is a flight to oblivion or to him.

with great apologies to Jorge Luis Borges and ‘Labyrinths’

Here lie a few of his previous activities. The highlighted are basically maths related:


Now he specialises in rods and the subordination of teaching to learning or as some might say the elevation of learning above teaching…and also, the creation and operation of rich, motivating learning environments.

communication is possible….contact: drjax at

rod man’s nightmare…

I feel frustrated, I feel thick, I just can’t see, nothing’s clear, the dark night of the soul, there’s something I just don’t see, I don’t get it, waiting for a flash of insight, can’t quite hold it in my mind, I’ve forgotten what I’m doing, can’t see a way forward, feel like going back to the beginning, puff and blow, I’ll write down what I do know…again, maybe I’ll sleep on it…you get the picture…