By Kari Diane Pike
Warning: Reading the first paragraph may cause brain strain...I'm just sayin'.
American Psychologist, February 1995
"Motor Development: A New Synthesis" by Esther Thelen
"Developmental change, then, can be seen in dynamic terms as a series of states of stability, instability, and phase shifts in the attractor landscape, reflecting the probability that a pattern will emerge under particular constraints. From dynamic principles, one can predict that change is heralded by the loss of stability...Once new configurations are possible and discovered, they must also be progressively tuned to become efficient, accurate, and smooth...Theory predicts that times of instability are essential to give the system flexibility to select adaptive activities...The notion of exploration and selection may be a key developmental process at both behavioral and neural levels."
The quote came from an assigned reading for the psychology class in which I am currently enrolled: Infant Development in the Family. It took me two days to digest the fourteen page article. Day one saw me alternating between pencil-tapping, eraser-chewing fidgeting and head- bobbing, eye-rolling dozing. The article appeared to be snore-boring, taxing my poor brain with academic language that didn't even exist in the Oxford dictionary on my desk. (Thank goodness for the Google dictionary!) My perception changed dramatically the second day when I stumbled over the above words.
As I struggled to understand the concepts being taught, Doctrine and Covenants 29:31-34 kept coming into my mind. "For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal--First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work...Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, you father, who I created."
Aha! I could see a pattern! Thelen was explaining in her article that in order for infants to develop, they have to experience certain periods of "instability", or in other words, stress, to create the flexibility needed for the system to "select adaptive activities." The nervous system needs challenges and choices in order to select and strengthen healthy neural connections. Later in the article Thelen states that "the new views of motor development emphasize strongly the roles of exploration and selection in finding new solutions to new task demands." (Choice and accountability on a microscopic level!) Is that cool or what! How many times have we heard about the importance of agency to our lives...both mortal and immortal? How many times have we been taught that challenges serve a purpose in our spiritual growth? To think of these patterns occurring over and over on so many levels is mind boggling.
I also enjoyed those words, "progressively tuned." Isn't that what we want to accomplish in our spiritual lives...become progressively tuned in to the promptings of the Holy Spirit? It all fits with the old adage, "If you don't use it, you lose it." The textbook pointed out that "much of what infants learn about objects, people, and their own abilities appears to be acquired during a state of quiet alert." Infants don't take in much information when they are in an active state of crying. That makes perfect sense when you understand that we hear and the learn the most from the promptings of the Holy Spirit when we are still and paying attention. This gives me a new perspective of the phrase "be as a little child."
Every part of us is connected; the spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional. If one part of us is out of balance, the other parts also experience stress. What I have come to appreciate even more is how an understanding of a simple gospel principle, given through the influence of the Holy Ghost, can give us insight to the seeming complexity of our creation and purpose in this life.
How does this apply to my writing? 1) Keep learning. 2) Keep it simple. 3)Take time to be still and 4) listen to the Spirit...if I am in tune, I can write it.