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Term Chaos is Just Chaos: Part Three

By Robert Felt
Created May 17 2007 - 2:51pm

Part Three: Standards Are Not Shallow

At the A.A.O.M. nomenclature meeting Dr. Bensky and his colleagues made some very dramatic assertions. One of these was the assertion that standards are a detriment to seeking the "depth" of meaning in Chinese concepts. Notably, Dr. Bensky failed to describe "depth" in any understandable or practical, way. This is very much like his declaration that the long-standing consensual principals of translation Marnae Ergil described are "wrong." We're to take his word for it. Let's not do that. Let's think for ourselves.

Depth, which I define as an inclusive and intuitive insight into something, a not-words knowing, is the result of gong fu, of hard, dedicated work on one's self. This is, of course, expressed as it would be in the martial or meditative arts, in fact, any number of Asian disciplines. It is also what our mothers were trying to get across to us when they noted (usually to our displeasure) that there were rewards to "doing it right."

I've done a couple of things in my life where I knew things that were non-verbal, although not beyond explanation. While doing body work, for example, I have no expressed rationale for what I am doing. I can find what needs to be worked upon and I can sense what kind of work to do. When I know someone, I can often "see" their physical issues without making any explicit effort to do so. Yet, if you stopped me and asked: "what points are you using, what is your treatment strategy, and why are you doing this rather than that?" I would not have thought about it. As I work I am responding to what I sense without using a conscious logic. I am thinking with my hands.

Obviously, some of what is happening is sensory, I am responding to color changes, skin textures and subtle differences in the feel of one point or another. However, the process of organizing the sensory information and deciding what to do, occurs preconsciously, somewhere not beyond words but before words. I can do that because I have pushed points on many people and many people have pushed points on me. Of course, with a little consideration, I could write the case report and provide a rationale. But, in process, a deeper level of knowing is at work.

I will also note that my experience piloting larger sailboats is identical. I think this is important to say because depth is a matter of conscious work and intention that is in no way unique to Chinese medicine. (I could say the same thing about how my partner makes goat cheese without measuring anything.) Intuition and intention are human capacities not the property of one method or another. Sailing is not medical, although it is Chinese, but it too involves depth, intention and intuition. You are in two fluids, air and water. Your only controls, rudder and sail, are entirely passive; they only work because the air and water are in motion. So, sailing in any wind is not done through calculation or procedure. In fact, if you waited to analyze a wind shift, or a new wave set, it would be too late to do anything about it. The skill is the anticipation.

Again, there is no conscious logic. You respond to the feel of the deck beneath your feet, the wind in your face, and the tell-tales on the horizon. Yet, a good "helm" knows all the principles by which sails, hull and rudder work and can explain them (often endlessly with some meteorology thrown-in) in a terminology that is complex like Chinese medicine, more or less as ancient and rooted in a metaphoric language that is thoroughly unfamiliar to non-sailors. So, the idea that there is a dichotomy between depth and knowledge or standard ways of communication confounds the experience of persons who are accomplished in many fields of human endeavor.

Depth and meaning are intimately related, with depth springing forth from knowledge, from the effort to learn and excel. The idea that a standard nomenclature somehow voids intuition would strike most sailors as "nuts." Possessed as sailors are of an arcane, ancient and complex nomenclature with its source metaphors buried in centuries past, (sound familiar?), we nonetheless use it to communicate precise instructions, to multiple people, in changing situations. Without it we'd be shipwrecks.

Depth is the outcome of gong fu, intense, concentrated work on one's self and practice of one's art or science. Those that have it may not exercise it in a wordy way, but they are neither empty-headed nor confused. Someone who has a depth of clinical ability is someone who is quite precise with Chinese medical concepts and logic. Depth follows knowledge and experience.

Open standards and scrutiny within academic freedom are not ways of limiting choice or destroying depth. They are ways of organizing information so that it is unequivocal in use and meaning. In my A.A.O.M. paper I state it thus:

I would like to show you that in the real world, standardization does not mean a single set of rules imposed by a single authority. The actual practice is quite different. In many cases standardization is the existence of multiple implementations that are carefully interfaced with each other. It does not limit personal preferences. In fact, an "Open Standard" gives individuals a maximum freedom of choice. The only people limited by an Open Standard are those who would impose a standard for their own benefit. Like the rule of law, standards avoid capricious and arbitrary controls. A term standard is not a list of words you must use but a method for linking your words to those of others.[1] [0]

There is no conflict between depth and knowledge. Knowledge neither guarantees nor destroys depth. What destroys depth is excessive simplification and the confusion that arises without the shared information standards provide.



[1] [0] [0] http://www.paradigmpubs.com/sites/www.paradigubs.com/files/files/AAOMPaper.pdf [0] , [0]


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