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Down the Rabbit Hole

rabbit hold

“A metaphor for adventure into the unknown.”

Years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Chogyam Trungpa speak in New York City.  At one point in his talk, he said “LEAP.”  I thought to myself, leap where?  And, as if he heard me, he said “It doesn’t matter where you LEAP, it is the action of leaping itself that is important.”

I will never forget that moment.  Most of the time, we spend our lives in between.  Should I leap or should I stay where I am (where it is safe)?  Is it the right answer or the wrong answer?  Black and white, yes and no.  Well you get the idea.

Thanks to Cath Ellis, I did delve into A Thousand Plateaus, but I did it on my terms, as the authors themselves suggested — “the reader is invited to move among plateaux in any order.”  In doing so, I found this description that resonated with me and the concept of of leaping into the void.

A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo.  (Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus.  P. 25)

This week our Trickster, Dave Cormier asked us simply to ‘Embrace Uncertainty.”  Like a good student, I fell down the Rabbit Hole…..

Trungpa’s student Pema Chodron, in her book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, frames this concept for me in this way:

“As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground—something predictable and safe to stand on—seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not. “

On Monday, this tweet caught my eye:


In this blog, Lines of Flight:  Deleuze and Nomadic Creativity, the author describes “Nomadism as a desire to experiment, explore, learn, grow, and boldly venture forth.”  That struck a chord. Are nomads then agents of change?   The same idea was echoed in a post by Maureen Maher on Following Uncertainty and Finding Music:

“Any time the world moves into a state of uncertainty, that’s the point at which cultural change, musical change, any kind of change, can happen. It comes out of the uncertainty and solidifies into the new structure.”

Ever the rhizome, following this line of thinking, I remembered someone last week calling the nomad the knowmad.  Looking for connections, I stumbled upon the The Knowmadic Society.  This group explores the future of learning, work and how we relate with each other in a world driven by accelerating change, value networks and the rise of knowmads.

In their book, the Knowmadic Society,  Knowmadic thinking is “exposing metaspaces in between each, opening new opportunities for new blends of formal, informal, non-formal and serendipitous learning. As in the Invisible learning project, we focus on educating for personal knowledge creation that cannot be measured easily.”

I then found this…Knowmads do not care for labels of old style paradigms, such as gender ,creed, race or indeed status, what Knowmads care about are the pleasures derived in forming new connections, mash-ups and provisional options, innovative solutions for the next step in human evolution.”

There appears to be a light at the end of the Rabbit Hole.  For me, Rhizomatic Learning is embracing these new opportunities and new literacies required to communicate and collaborate in this digital universe.  Rhizomatic Learners are change agents, exploring new frontiers.  For me the #rhizo14 experience is using our knowledge to make changes in education, starting with our own classrooms.

And that is actually the real question.  Dave poses it in this week’s Google Hangout, “how do we bring this concept of embracing uncertainty into our classrooms?”

I like this idea:  Don’t ask what you want to be when you grow up, ask “What problem do you want to solve?” (seen on Facebook?)

Or what about the conference Sandra Sinfeld, attended Look Make Learn?

To make changes in education, we must embrace uncertainty in our teaching, and we must help our students understand that it is ok not to have the right answer.  The quest — the leap into the unknown is the learning process.

This rhizomatic journey took me on quite an adventure, so much so that I didn’t have time for alot of the conversation on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.  So I’d like to thank those who took the time to summarize the week for me:

Or you could try Googling Embracing Uncertainty (this deed indeed unearth some gems):

1.  http://tinybuddha.com/blog/embracing-uncertainty-the-future-is-open-not-empty/

2.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2013/12/30/take-a-giant-leap-in-2014-embrace-the-uncertainty-of-change/

3.  http://alifeofperfectdays.blogspot.com/2012/04/embracing-uncertainty-how-to-thrive-in.html

Looking forward to next week’s adventure and to sharing it with the knowmads of #rhizo14!

27 comments on “Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. Pingback: Down the Rabbit Hole | Voices in the Feminine -...

  2. Pelle
    February 2, 2014

    Reblogga detta på Pelle Pedagog and commented:
    När jag läser Cathleens text om rhizomatiskt lärande är det som att följa mina egna tankar, mitt eget lärande och användande av samma metaforer “…ned i kaninhålet!”. Jag tycker hennes text fångar lärandet på nätet på ett utmärkt sätt, man hopar från tuva till tuva, från platå till platå, undersöker, testar och provsmakar – för att sedan fortsätta att nysta upp (eller röra till) och så fortsätter man mellan områden och människor samlandes intryck och tankar. Utan att bry sig om etiketter och titlar.
    (Testar WordPress reblogga-funktion)

    • cathleennardi
      February 2, 2014

      Thank you for taking the time to post on my blog. So glad to have Google Translate to understand your comments. The Rabbit Hole seems to be a good metaphor that is cross cultural and resonated with many people. Perhaps there is more to Alice in Wonderland then we realize.

  3. Pingback: Down the Rabbit Hole | Coaching Leaders | Scoop.it

  4. Pingback: Wandering across smooth and jagged spaces – bring a blanket and beware the Chief ants | Francesbell's Blog

  5. dogtrax
    February 2, 2014

    I love this “…embracing these new opportunities and new literacies required to communicate and collaborate in this digital universe” and agree, and it is the unsettling nature of how these literacies are in the midst of change that make writing and composing and teaching in this day and age so interesting.
    Kevin (reporting from his own rabbit hole that connects to yours)

    • cathleennardi
      February 2, 2014

      Kevin, I was thinking about your own post the other day and how technology is changing the way we write and communicate our ideas. I love the way you experiment with different tools as a vehicle for your writing. You are giving your students the space to find the own digital voice. Glad our rabbit holes are connected!!

  6. Pingback: Down the Rabbit Hole | Aprendizaje Rizom&aacute...

  7. keith.hamon
    February 2, 2014

    What a great post, Cathleen. It is, for me, an ideal example of what is so exciting about MOOCs and other kinds of rhizomatic learning, and it makes those features explicit for those who may still have doubts. I can trace in your post a highly detailed and precise strategy for learning that can be replicated in most any class without ever become boring, without ever becoming the same tracing of the same steps. I see in your post the embodiment of Deleuze and Guattari’s distinction between tracing a given, known path in a traditional curriculum and mapping a new path in a rhizomatic curriculum.

    Your post identifies a few landmarks partly in an old territory but mostly in a new territory, anchoring itself and getting some bearings about the new topography. Then it moves out to explore, keeping the landmarks both old and new in view until a sense of the lay of the land emerges, just like a nomad/knowmad does. Eventually, new landmarks emerge, get tested, become reliable, and the relations among all the landmarks rearrange themselves to form a new understanding of where the knowmad is and what this new place is like. We get lost, we find again our landmarks, and we fit the unknown space into the known space. We shout out to others who are mapping the same area, though seldom precisely as we do—after all, it’s a big world with infinite pathways. We look for fellow guides who look for us, and we guide each other. Your post mixes past guides such as Chogyam Trungpa, Deleuze and Guattari, and Pema Chodron) with new guides (Dave Cormier, Cath Ellis, Maureen Mahrer, and The Knowmadic Society) to explore new places without losing the old places.

    The post, then, becomes a snapshot of where you are now, pointing out some of the landmarks and pathways, knowing that you’ll take a new snapshot next week from a different vantage point with a new understanding. It’s the best of rhizomatic learning, and I think we can find ways to use this in most any class. Thanks for making it clear, especially pedagogically clear.

    • cathleennardi
      February 2, 2014

      Your post here is so rich with new ideas. That is what I too love about Rhizomatic learning. I hadn’t thought about D&Gs reference to tracing until your own lens magnified it for me. And your reference to mapping, perhaps that is what Cath Ellis wanted us to see with the London Tube map. And Terry Elliot, like you, says that it is not that we are leaping without some basics, and you call them our landmarks. We can go out to sea, if we know how to find our way home. Yes,this is trailblazing in new frontiers that we can understand through our past knowledge and teachers. As I was reading your post about ‘shouting out’ to those mapping in the same area, I thought of a Geiger Counter. Hey, I found something here!! Glad you saw it too. Wander what it’s going to look like next week?

  8. Terry Elliott (@telliowkuwp)
    February 2, 2014

    I have responded on my blog here: http://impedagogy.com/wp/blog/2014/02/02/without-deviation-from-the-known-no-progress-is-possible/

    And I have responded via a Diigo annotated linke here: https://diigo.com/01jjko

    Suffice to sum up: I love the synthesis that enlarges the rabbit hole and makes it seem more hospitable, like Badger’s den in Wind in the Willows.

    • cathleennardi
      February 2, 2014

      I’ve never been in the badger’s den. Do they serve tea there?? It’s funny, I started out with a boat going out to sea and the further out I got, the more it seemed like a rabbit hole. I’m going to respond directly on your blog. Thanks for the Diigo Annotation. I’ll have to put that in my backpack.

  9. Pingback: Without Deviation from the Known, No Progress Is Possible. | Impedagogy

  10. Rick Bartlett
    February 2, 2014

    Appreciate your post. I especially like all the connections you bring together from the varied readings and the posts. I wondered if we could also add “Digital Vikings” to your list of groups who embrace change and leap down the rabbit hole.

    • cathleennardi
      February 2, 2014

      Absolutely, Rick! It was the Digital Vikings that I met in EDCMOOC that set me on this knowmadic quest.

  11. Pingback: Down the Rabbit Hole | How to save money | Scoo...

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  13. Pingback: Down the Rabbit Hole | Idioms.in | Scoop.it

  14. Ruth Davies
    February 4, 2014

    I just love your blog… one of the biggest fan of your job dear…

    God Bless You,


  15. Pingback: Books, Internet & Campfires = Revolution | Exploring Digital Culture

  16. Maureen Crawford
    February 13, 2014


    How fortunate to find you down this rabbit hole! Your ‘leaping’ comment served to connect several dangling nodes for me.

    Robert Bly has a whole thesis concerning leaps and poetry, which he writes about in, Leaping Poetry, an Idea with Poems and Translations. I had not connected leaping and rhizomatic learning and language (a la Logan). Here are some quotations from Bly concerning leaping.

    “. . .leap can be described as a leap from the conscious to the unconscious and back again, a leap from the known [or knowmadic?] part of the mind to the unknown part and back to the known.” page 1

    “My idea then, is that a great work of art often has at its centre a long floating leap, around which the work of art in ancient times used to gather itself like steel shavings around a magnet. But a work of art does not necessarily have at its center a single long floating leap. The work can have many leaps, perhaps shorter. The real joy of poetry is to experience this leap inside a poem.” page 4

    “. . .it is possible that rapid association is a form of content” page 17 – this one gets me thinking about the leaping and rapid association done as we explore on the Internet being part of the semantics of the language of the Internet – powerful – I am going to have to work this through using some of Robert K. Logan’s views on the meta-languages of humans. As Bly says, “Thought of in terms of language, then, leaping is the ability to associate fast.” p. 4

    • cathleennardi
      February 15, 2014

      Maureen, we are definitely onto something here — a curriculum within the community — rabbit holes, knowmads, Leaping Poetry, conscious and unconscious thought and the 6th language could be a study in itself. I am very interested in the Leaping Poetry http://muse.jhu.edu/books/9780822978220 concept and hopefully will integrate it into this weeks blog!

  17. helinur
    February 13, 2014

    This post has helped me to find excellent links forward during rhizo14 – so thanks to you!

    • cathleennardi
      February 15, 2014

      I’m so glad my post has given you ‘food for thought!”

  18. Pingback: Leaping Internet Lingo produces Knowmads! | Thinking Out Loud

  19. Pingback: Wandering across smooth and jagged spaces – bring a blanket and beware the Chief ants – Frances Bell

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