Goethean Science as observing in 3-D

Quality of observing

Goethe’s theory-method of science can be clarified by ‘quality of observing;’ as in, what quality of observation does this reporter-experimenter engage in?

Two ways to experience a circus

Consider this contrast: You are 13 years old. The circus comes to town. You have never seen a circus nor seen it on a movie or screen. You want the circus experience. You mow lawns to earn the ticket price.

You enter the big top with all your senses open. Beyond the horses, elephants, trapeze artists, beyond this, a sense of wonder pours into you. In the moment, not easy for you to articulate the wholeness of your circus experience. Only later, maybe days or weeks later, will you be able to speak and-or write about your conclusions after all your external and internal movement has integrated and “come to rest.”

Contrast this with: A one-eyed, color-blind person in a wheelchair also wants the circus experience. He has no money for a ticket. He walks around the outside of the wooden fence surrounding the big top. He finds a small missing knothole in the fence he is able to look thru. Yes! He can see the big top activity, the women standing on horseback, the elephants, trapeze artists. After watching all of the circus thru this knothole, where each act can be catalogued, a more limited immersion in the experience, the one-eyed, color-blind onlooker can indeed organize his sensory and mental impressions and report his experience.

Given these two circus-goers, if you interviewed both persons, who’s account is more interesting and engaging?
Which of the two people would you invite into a Grade 1-4 classroom to describe the circus to the children?

What Goethe did not have rhetoric to say, which we can say today, is the quality of observation contrasts in the two accounts.

In one account, the objective (sensory) details of the circus converge with their own personal experience of the circus. This reporter tells you details of horses and trapeze artists; alongside details, of how and what the reporter felt.
Three-dimensional observing ~ Because this report converges feelings with sensory details, listeners find it more 3D, more engaging.

The other reporter, observing from a distance as it were, was more detached from their own feelings about the circus. They may list more sensory details of horses and trapeze artists; however, this reporter reports fewer feeling experiences, thoughts tangential to how he felt; or possibly, reports no feelings at all.

This contrast between two qualities of observation, also characterizes the contrast between the Goethean whole-person observing and Sherlock Holmes primarily left-brain-only observing.

Joe Friday: “Just the facts, mam”

I’m going back to the two circus observers. I’m aware an even starker contrast along these lines exists in pop culture. It is the hysterical mother, wife, daughter being interviewed by Detective Joe Friday in the 1952-’58 TV drama Dragnet.

Harvey Kurtzman’s and Will Elder’s parody of Dragnet in MAD (comic book) #11, page 4 especially, takes this contrast to its extreme, the hysterical widow and Joe Friday, who never responds in a personal way to ANYTHING, no matter how extreme or even absurd.

The Kurtzman-Elder Dragnet parody is here – http://ethunter1.blogspot.fr/2010/05/sunday-funnies-mad-11-dragnet.html

In both Dragnet and the parody, Joe Friday is NON-emotional. The widow wife has all the emotions. Joe even appears to have his eyes closed.  He’s closed-off to his own experience (a topic not discussed until Men’s Liberation in the late 1970s).

Starting around 1792, Goethe intuited a science drawing on BOTH extremes, could keep humankind in the middle zone of truly human values.

Mythologically, the unresponsive male, especially emotionally unresponsive male, is buddies with:

– The cowboy Marlboro Man, all tough cowboys of few words,

– Sherlock Holmes, “Elementary, my dear Watson,”

– The white-lab-jacketed scientist.

Can you add to this list?

Now for the $64,000 questions

How much are you an observer in your own life?  How much are you a full participant? 

Did you parents or grand-parents divide up Thinking and Feeling so one was “in charge” of one function and the other function fell to the other?  

How willing are you be be a full participant in your own life, employing all your senses, all your Thinking and all your Feeling?  

In Modern lingo, this is what Goethe proposed as a science for soul in the human experience.  

Can you see why Goethe’s holistic ideas had to “sleep” until the 1970s before they could be appreciated even a little bit?  

Excerpted from the up-coming On Beyond Waldorf mss

Tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.