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Towards Learning Proficiency

Maxims . . . throw light on various puzzling problems, and so on. - Rudolf Steiner (Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, "Preface to the Third Edition")

Steiner talks for gains to be had from short, pithy statements. There is a knack to it. "Say not a little with a lot, but a lot with a little," is attributed to Pythagoras - and "In the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue," is from 1 Corinthians 14:19.

Farmers make hay, and many benefit from it during long winter months. Making brief, telling phrases may be compared to making hay. And just as hay calls for water and solid chewing of the cud, terse statements call for silent reflection over time. For all that, there are some means and ways that typically help many of the higher digestive processes.

Solid schemas help learning

Short statements may be sorted and arranged to help learning, and thus make a study more profitable. A schema is one such arrangement; a mind map is another. In cognitive psychology, a schema is taken to mean a cognitive framework - a model - that helps organise and interpret information. Schemas can be useful to the degree they help us access and/or interpret large amount of information at hand. Other meanings of 'schema' are not considered below.

Some essays are a bottom tables of sorted phrases put into a schema. The sayings can be direct quotations, maxims, bon mots, proverbs and sayings. Besides, renderings of many sorts are often useful: [Different renditions and their marks]. The utterances are stringed as parts of an underlying schema aiming at learning with skill - as sensible schemas make embedded, wise thoughts and kernels in them easier to survey and learn. The built-in structure of the table-essays is one of loose cybernetics, and as such it allows for distilling still more wisdom from what is put into them.

First warning: In selecting several statements from a text and joining them, an impression might arise that what is left out from the source(s), is of the same standard. That could well be a fallacy. Thus, if extracted, joined material gives a superficially attractive appearance or impression, the omitted parts of the source may or may not, as the case may be. Also, some omitted parts could be better! To arrive at superficial gloss is not intended, but to see if a Tao-way may be found by putting together extracts in their shuffled or not shuffled original order.

Second warning: Clippings, quotations and renditions that are taken out of their context, may be even grossly misunderstood by that feature alone. With proverbs that is rarely a problem, but it may be with cited or rendered authors, for shortened phrases may get more ambiguous for being shortened, or get a different spin, intended or not. Hence there is a risk of getting other impressions than intended by any other. Therefore references to the unabridged sources are often supplied as a help against marring misunderstanding.

From the art of juggling with ideas

There are synonyms to deal with

When we abridge utterances, we may get to terse statements, such as maxims, sayings, quotations, proverbs and others. They are at times synonyms. A synonym is a word or phrase that means almost the same or exactly the same as another word or phrase in the same language. Synonyms often carry different shades of meaning, and there is much overlapping between many of them.

Maxim is defined as "a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct." Words that mean about the same as 'maxim' include "saying, proverb, motto, adage, saw, dictum, precept, bon mot and expression.

A saying, for example, is "a short, pithy expression identified with a particular person." Similar words: proverb, maxim, adage, saw, motto, precept, expression, phrase (and others).

A quotation is "a group of words taken from a text or speech and repeated by someone other than the original author or speaker." Synonyms include citation, quote, extract, selection, clipping, fragment and phrase. What is more, quotations and proverbs overlap - many quotations have later become proverbs. There are many examples.

Proverb: "A short, well-known pithy saying, stating a general truth or piece of advice." Synonyms: citation, quote, saying, excerpt, maxim, precept, slogan, bon mot (and others)

As the lists of synonyms show, maxim, proverb, saying and quotation often mean about the same and at times can have much common ground, and at times are used interchangeably. Yet there are some distinctions between them, as their definitions indicate.

Key phrases are fit for learning

"Get Tao" articles rather typically makes use of short and shortened phrases, as maxims, bon mots, proverbs and other sayings tend to be, for as Rudolf Steiner is into on top of the page, maxims, proverbs and other terse statements, including some quotations, can throw light on problems and other issues. Granting that there are good maxims and bad maxims, helpful proverbs and quotations and hardly helpful proverbs and quotations, and that helpful ones give better teachings, many terse phrases also have it in them that they are easy to recall.

It is just the same with key words and keynotes and key phrases when studying textbooks. Focusing on the gist, makes for more accomplished learning, as assembled key words, phrases and lines serve as "memory pegs" or pivots, (central points, handles, etc.) There are other means and ways of making study time pay well too. Tony Buzan has concocted a manysided approach, for example. (Buzan 2010)

Take hold of the pan handle to get to the food in the pan

By taking care to memorise the "handles", the key terms, more may follow, as memory is rooted in forming associations, and "memory handles" tend to help us remember better and more, if the "pan" of text parts they hold, gets better activated once you grasp the handle. If so, better learning gains are had. There is a snag: Blocked memory, but those points are left out here. If learning is accomplished with at least moderate ease, pleasure and not so much violence as in ineffective and compulsory schooling, a student may remember far more, far longer, far better. There is a learning-war on, one that causes unsuitable conformity, repressions of learnt material, and low life accomplishments in its wake, perhaps. Much may depend on the single person or his or her caring parents of home-schooling too. They adapt material to the learner, and not the other way round, roughly said.

In general, it helps to get a survey of a text too, before going into details. That study approach suits many.

By making gist stand out well, reading is eased, learning is eased, memorisation is eased. It is wise to present cental and good ideas in some interesting way, for interest helps learning too. To profit from reading by retaining more of it, is that not a good idea?

We may ease presentation of kernels or good ideas by typographic means. In addition there are study strategies. Lojong may or may not be coupled to them, but it is advocated. It is a very old way of focusing in a relaxed way on sentences to learn well. Lojong is used in Tibetan yoga. It is also a feature of yoga in Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism). In several Catholic circles it equals meditating on verses. [Lojong, an easy way to learn]

Long-Term Learning

(1) Meditate deeply (contemplate) on a few select thoughts at a time. (2) Then memorise. (3) Also consider, reflect laxly, on the core ideas. In such a way one appropriates them, makes them one's own in time. It happens in part by integrating (linking, "braiding" or "knitting" the new ideas to lots of other ideas inside.

To get the good ideas firmly established in the mind is to remember them so well that a number of them may be recalled. It resembles how fishers deal with fishing nets, all in all:

How fishers fish. The so-called pegs (key words, key prases, key lines) are like floats. They give access to the whole net under the surface (in memory vaults). At the bottom of the net may be heavy weights - depending on the type of net. The weights signify things that keep one down - lack of understanding, for example.

"In the flow": Good catches may be had. The catch that is hauled in consists of glimmering ideas you eat and digest and are nourished by, time and time again, meal after meal. If there are big fishes to haul in, one quite naturally gets eager, even a little scared, as the case may be. To be "in the flow" tells of learning eagerness, spurred by many catches. (Ronald Gross 1999)

Fishers go on to gut, sell, handle and eat fish. By hauling in your nets and prepare the fishes you get, you may feed yourself and your family too, and the well fed ones may slowly grow larger - not as parrots, but as themselves, mainly. That is much of what Waldorf Education is about.

For such work to go very well, deep rest or restiveness may help, meditation, listening (using one's auditive channels) and wise memorisations and perhaps wise training. A good blend of these elements can give better recall with less effort. [Means of learning]

On a page of its own, meditative lojong is explained with a few extra tips. Lojong is bringing select thoughts into meditative focus, and build memory networks that way. This restive focus-approach is good for many kinds of studies, because of the networks of associations that are built or grown thereby, to become parts of one's long-term memory, LTM. [Lojong]

Suitable reservations

How we understand a statement depends on how we interpret it to make sense to us. It often helps to be reasonable. It is generally good to maintain some reserve - it helps balance in the boat, so to speak, and not make it capsise or anything of that sort. Many a kernel or core idea can profit from added reservations, that is, from skilled qualifications added to make sense or better sense of it. It is quite an art. Further, it is feasible to gather many reservations and keep them ready in case of need. At universities and high schools, if not earlier, well schooled young adults learn to express themselves carefully, using standard qualifications like "It seems to me that . . ." or "It could be that" and so on. Bertrand Russell says in "How I Write":

If you want to make a statement with a great many qualifications, put some of the qualifications in separate sentences. - Sir Bertrand Russell, in "How I Write" (Russell 1961:63-65)

There is nothing wrong with that. Here you may learn the art of building walls of subsumed reservations too. Mind the link to one of the site's presupposed reservation pages on top of almost any page.


DAO SEARCH Get Tao (icon)When selected expressions are stringed to make a table-essay of a sort (a schema). [The basic schema] - [Schema markers] -- [Gold Eggs model]

- sometimes ◊ - serve as structural items along with the star (next item). So - the structural design of a table-essay comes with markers and icons to ease appropriation of the content. The level markers may be ignored at a first reading, for example. [Design markers explained]

is a particular level marker in a table-essay. [Star explained]

[....] Text in square brackets [in sharp brackets] is written for this work or edition.

(....)Text in round brackets, ( ), is from cited material. Round brackets are also put around text references, that is, "code-letters or author names for works, followed by page numbers."

* 'Altered: A phrase or period may be changed more or less, abridged or moderated in different ways, as the case may be. At times the marker suggests 'added': as for added aproposes - aproposes may be either new or without sources given.

is put between sayings or maxims with similar or closely related meanings.

Where two or more distinct or originally separate statements are connected, the joint is shown by ⚶ or an em dash ( — ) with space before and after. (Em dashes in source texts may in case be changed into en dashes ( – ) with space before and after to avoid some confusion.)

Cf Compare (literal meaning: confer).

Mod 'Moderated' may be put behind moderated statements - It shows the original souce is toned down for the sake of something "sweet and short", or "simple, clear, and direct as fits" - or seemingly just more helpful along general lines.

With - along with - suggests a statement with parts that could be "tailored" from fragments or sayings by one or more by others. 'With' can also be used for shuffled gist and when statements and phrases of others get twisted and turned to become more or less unrecognisable. In such cases, 'With' suggests some influence or other.

Inline text:

Long notes may be indented (This is an indentation).

Attributing: Sayings without text references in collections of quotations, proverbial sayings, maxims, mottos and so on can be attributed to T. Kinnes in case a "by-source" should be needed for some reason. Yet, "Where do thoughts come from?" (◦Maharishi answers it)

Abbreviations (a) More renditions -- (b) Common abbreviations.


Gain-Ways, Ways of Gains, towards Learning Proficiency, Art of learning, art of living, table essays, methods, Literature  

Bennett, Bo. Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of over 300 Logical Fallacies. Updated Academic ed. Sudbury, MA:, 2013.

Buzan, Tony. Buzan's Study Skills: Mind Maps, Memory Techniques, Speed Reading. Consultant ed. James Harrison. Repackaged ed. Harlow, Essex: BBC Active / Pearson Education, 2011.

Buzan, Tony. Use Your Head. Harlow, Essex: BBC Active / Pearson Education, 2011.

Gross, Ronald. Peak Learning: A Master Course in Learning How to Learn. 2nd ed. New York: J. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999.

Russell, Sir Bertrand. "How I Write". In The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, edited by Robert E. Egner and Lester E. Denonn. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1961:63-65.

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