You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. The idiom is classic and its accuracy profound. By what method can one make another do an action? For what purpose does one choose to activate the mind? As an instructor, this challenge of motivation remains the ever-impossible problem to solve. Can the motivational riddle be solved?
Many have tried: incentives such as food and cash have been attempted with diminishing returns. Are external motivators more powerful? The avoidance of the threat certainly works for students whose parents directly influence their performance in school. But are these techniques effective in developing life long learners?
Unfortunately the problem of motivation (seemingly its deficiency and not its excess) has existed forever. For what purpose should I do this thing? The “I” remains the factor. Only when it matters does the individual act. Is it culture that determines the value of an action? Fear might play a part and likewise motivations and the avoidance of punishment. And yet for educators around the world what legitimate action can be taken to inspire another to act. One can only do so much and ultimately the student and his or her cognition remain the single driving force between inaction and the action.
Indiana’s “Freedom of Religion” law reminds us that, despite our democratic notions, we do not live in an egalitarian society. Aristocrats will defend the status quo by all means necessary. Even as society undergoes changes in cultural perspectives and popular support for these groups wanes they will battle to maintain control. Such groups do not go gentle into that good night: they fight to maintain power.
Aristocrats do not recognize their passing. Even in light of new ideas and perspectives a battle will be mounted to reverse the changing trends. Often, discrimination is a common utility for such figures. To deny access to a service allows a powerful group to manipulate resources; to complicate the day-to-day operations of an undesired faction to focus on their goals. “If I don’t like the things you do, I’ll make your life a challenge”, they might say. Ultimately the means to defeat such actions is to swell around the new ideas and work to quell aristocratic abuse of power.
For the cake maker who refuses to sell cakes to homosexuals there are various methods of response. One might create legislation to ban or allow such limitations. Another option is to recognize the power of the market. For a baker to limit his or her customer base is to sacrifice a source of revenue. Beyond the denied couples a portion of other populations (heterosexual couples) will choose to purchase cakes elsewhere in response to these ideas. Though not directly affected, the belief that someone else is being abused warrants a response. “I would never pay a baker who refused to sell to homosexuals”, they might say.
In the end we are faced with variable responses. Legislation might provide for a desired end, but the more powerful response resides in the market. Let the dollars make the statements. In order to defeat aristocrats whose ideas have waned we are better served by popular response.
First expressed in 1953, “mission creep” is the “expansion of a mission beyond its initial goals, even after its initial success”. Though often used to refer to military campaigns, it also provides an agile perspective to assess all social movements. Sensing success and popular acceptance, a group proceeds onward with another set of goals. In business the endless “pushing forward” is the name of the game: new products are the life line of a company and successful companies are known for multiple types of products.
Unlike businesses, where a concrete “product” is created, groups dedicated to the promotion of abstract concepts also suffer mission creep. Advocates can never solve a problem: there will always be persistent crumbs of the initial target problem. For a group determined to eliminate discrimination success can only breed new missions: “We are successful, so let’s move this campaign forward.”
Unfortunately the attributes of these movements is not always associated with goals that benefit society. For every group determined to eliminate discrimination another stands determined to continue or expand the status quo abuse. Progress is an endless battle, a constant give and take between perspectives of the greater good. For the individuals working to achieve a goal there remains only constant, infinite levels of challenge.
In the chaos of existence comes a desperate search for certainty. From vast unknowns we find discomfort and anxiety. We fear to be mistaken and the pain of our confusion births a desperate need to know.
In The Wisdom of Uncertainty, Alan Watts suggests a comfort in confusing times. “The future is not here”, he writes and urges us to pause and think. To exist within the moment is our only saving grace. Reflection is an act of creation: remembering our memories and drawing our conclusions.
Watts reminds us that existence is a tricky thing: we are gifted with extraordinary senses that sponge the world around us. From sights and sounds to smells and thoughts the composition of our minds are overflowing streams of data. And yet, despite such profound gifts we cannot draw conclusions from this information. In reality there is o certainty in what we experience: the random is the norm.
Watts recalls an event in his childhood where he desired to send his friend a package of water. Desiring to mail it so that his recipient would open it and sense the deluge, he ultimately realizes the impossibility of the process. “The trouble is to get the water into any manageable shape”, he writes. For Watts this moment provided a pivotal insight into what he terms the “attempted solutions” of human enterprise. To simplify complicated things in neatly organized packages is impossible.
Watts reminds us of the greatest human folly: suggesting a simplicity to the endless state of chaos. We are not in control, we cannot create sense because it is not there. To exist is to be a witness to the wonderment of nature. We are better served in simplicity: recognize our limitations in drawing conclusions and simply be within ourselves. To recognize the world is not to find some over-arching rule or divinity in control. We cannot know and some “supposed secret knowledge” is hidden or non-existent. The better way to live? Present and aware, sponging with our tools and living for the moment. “It is only through silence that one can find something new to talk about”.
For those in search of “purity”, the contents of one’s diet are often prime for scrutiny. Beyond components of our careful, cooked creations come powerful revelations on our character. In diet is our character.
For many, a diet is a text wherein one’s feeding is a gateway to the soul. Who is a person? Consider what he eats.
Religion and medical terminology permeate our food labels with terms like “prescribe” and “heal” suggesting deeper, hidden powers. Does consumption of a brownie mean a crime against the heavens? Our labels might suggest we have as words like “sinful”, “treat” and “guilty” fill the labels on our food. “Indulge” we read because our item is “guilt free”.
The items that we feed ourselves are symbols for our soul and history is rife with heightened dietary focus. In The Nazi War on Cancer, Robert Proctor writes on Nazi dietary guidelines. Included in his text are dietary notes from Hitler’s second-in-command Heinrich Himmler. Reading of Himmler’s fear of “artificial food”, we read statements that seem snipped from contemporary diet concerns. Terms like “natural” and “cleanliness” permeate the text. Himmler writes of a concern for a “natural” diet free from “bad foods” like “refined flour, sugar, and white bread.” Just like so many in contemporary society the backwards move to a “natural” diet of the past was essential to existence.
Himmler writes of “food companies” who “prescribe” the German diet and mask an unassuming public. He bemoans the consumption of “refined flour, sugar, and white bread” as invisible hazards to the public. Casting these statements in connections between eater and food, Himmler demonstrates the profound connection that can be drawn from food to personal character. For Himmler and many contemporary diet experts, one’s character was revealed inside the pantry. Himmler sees a danger in our sugar bowl and lurking death in flower. For the German eater a careful consideration of food was essential for national success. Indeed he writes of patriotic duties to eat well. Procter comments that this “private life made public” was powerfully enacted in dietary policy. The public was urged to give up meat, drink alcohol and coffee in moderation and eat only until satiated for the better of their country. From the holy to the hazardous, food has long been the means to improved society. In items that we eat and the diet we subscribe our character is symbolized. In ingredients are character and in meals our greatest mirror.