Sunday, 17 October 2010

Insomnia

And the Hand of God

Sleep

I have poor sleep patterns.

It is not that I do not sleep. Indeed, I fall asleep anywhere, at any time that things go a little comfortable or quiet. I used to fall asleep regularly during meetings or when interviewing people for jobs. Lectures were also difficult times – nor just other people's lectures but even when standing up and lecturing myself, even while in full flow.

At nights too the sleep mechanism does not always run as it should. Sometimes, especially after having fallen very tired into a deep sleep, I come suddenly into what I experience subjectively as a state of wakefulness – and I start thinking.

Actually, I am not entirely sure that in such circumstances I am really awake. If I were, then I would get up and do something useful. Rather, I sometimes think that I am in a state of consciousness that I have never seen formally described, not awake as such but rather dreaming that I am awake.

And if that is so, what does this mean for the 'thinking' that I think myself to be doing? Dreams too?

Perchance to dream

This happened to me a few nights ago. I had thought, or I had dreamt, that I was working out what I should say in the five minutes allocated me during the Round Table on 'Conductive Education in the twenty-first century' at the CE World Congress in Hong Kong this December. This done, I fell asleep (or perhaps dreamt that I fell asleep), urging myself not to forget what I had just prepared. The next day I wrote it down. It was not bad and, mirabile dictu, it even fell within the word limit required for Abstract submission to the Congress.

Last night it happened again. I had gone to bed exhausted and fallen straight into a deep sleep. In the small hours up I woke, and began to think about what I should be saying during my plenary presentation. My mind was a blank. Yes, the title had been of my own choosing – 'The history and the philosophy of Conductive Education' – but that had been agreed several months ago. If I had had concrete thoughts on this at the time, I had either not written them down or, having done so, lost the piece of paper. Anyway, whatever might have seemed important then was unlikely to work out in the same way now. The world has been continuing to change, and so has how I understood this. It remains a good title – but what might I say to it?

I wish that I could report that the mechanisms of a few nights before had kicked in and delivered me this morning everything that I needed, gift-wrapped and oven-ready. Kick in they did in the night, during the same sort of waking-dreaming state, and I did remember them this morning, but they offered but part solution to my problem.

But they did seem to hold heuristic value. Others may have already thought the same thoughts, seen the same pattern, others still might model things on a wholly different basis. I hope that communicating my own ideas explicitly, however they came to me, will spur some modicum of interchange and discussion of the origins of the mélange currently known widely as Conductive Education.

Re-creating consciousness

My strange bouts of uncertain nocturnal consciousness may be no more that the stuff that dreams are made of, recycling and reordering all sorts of already established perceptions, understandings etc. I do not lie there puzzling out new solutions, applying new analyses, or undertaking any intellectually active process. Rather I watch passively (or should that be 'listen'?) as thoughts, and narratives rearrange themselves in a new order, throwing up perhaps new, unfamiliar juxtapositions as they do. That is what happened in the early hours of this morning. There was nothing fundamentally new here, and what did emerge was really something that I have known all along. It just hangs together a bit better now.

Perhaps not surprisingly, what emerged fits with what my nocturnal thought processes had come up with earlier this week.

Equally unsurprisingly, it also fits with my existing way of modelling the history of Conductive Education – and this has given me the much needed lead into how I shall structure my plenary presentation as a whole. To do this at all, I have to assume that most people in the audience at such a gathering will already have some idea of the history and the philosophy of what has brought them all that way and put them to such expense to be together there. OK, maybe some do not, but I have hardly the time or the resources to act as if they do! So I shall work on the basis of what I have to assume that they know.

I shall begin with a quick reminder of what is history – and what is historiography. I shall say that, as there has been so very little of the latter in Conductive Education, it is hardly surprising that there is virtually none of the former, just creation myths and sentimental romanticisation, spiced up with a little chauvinism and a load of teleology. I shall outline my own, already long available attempt to impose a little order on our past, through my proposal of three simple stages (prehistory, the Hungarian period and the period of internationalisation) and advance the inevitable conclusion that Conductive Education is now in crisis. I shall of course add that there is virtually no detailed documentation in support this periodisation, or any other 'history' that might be currently proposed ! My model is not so much history as hypothesis!

Then, as this is a Congress after all, I shall bring in something new viz. the dream-state revelation of this morning's early hours. This really does seem to have some utility in sharpening up and concretising the story of Conductive Education, without recourse to the dialectical analysis that most people nowadays find incomprehensible. At the same time, it offers a simple way to consider how new and different themes have been imported and blended into the conceptual mix that is contemporary Conductive Education. It also helps point up the inevitable question: 'What happens next?'

What is next for me, of course, is to get this written out within the six-hundred words and style of a formal Abstract in the particular format required by the Congress-organisers. And in the (very slightly) longer term I shall have to write down the outline text of what I shall actually say on the day, to be posted on the Internet from Hong Kong as promised, in full, as soon as I can after it has been presented.

On the whole I feel fairly confident now about what I shall be saying. I just hope that I do not have any further funny nights' sleep over the next seven weeks to change my mind!

Not Maradona

By the way, it also came to me during the night that the particular explanatory mechanism that I was formulating should be called the 'Hand of God'.

This does not relate to the notable goal scored by Diego Maradona in 1986, or to anything religious, but to a common expression/concept from British railway-modelling.

Clue enough... 

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