Friday, August 15, 2014

The chain

Jessica shared the following passages from the book she's currently reading, A Generous Orthodoxy, and I thought they merited posting here. The author, Brian McLaren, is writing of religious (specifically Christian) discipleship as a form of apprenticeship, but the relevance to falconry will be obvious to any of its practitioners.

...The only way to learn this mastery is through the disciple's voluntary submission to the discipline and tradition of the master.

In this sense, tradition doesn't just mean "traditions," such as a way of bowing before a karate lesson or after a violin performance, although "traditions" are included in tradition. Tradition means a whole way of practice or way of life that includes systems of apprenticeship, a body of knowledge (of terms, history, lore), a wide range of know-how (skills, technique, ability), and something else—a kind of "unknown knowledge" that Michael Polanyi calls personal knowledge: levels of knowledge that one has and knows but doesn't even know one has and knows.

The next bit speaks to the chain of tuition from sponsors and other mentors down the years, and through the ages:

...The master's students continue and expand the master's tradition so that one learns the way of the master most fully by being in the community of other students, including those who can remember and tell the stories about members of the community long departed. These gone-but-not-forgotten members are re-membered (kept alive through memory as important, ongoing members of the community). In this way the master-apprenticeship relationship is not merely individual tutoring but membership in a learning community that lives around the globe and across generations, as well as around the corner or across the street.

Each of us will think of someone particular here, perhaps multiple someones. Having begun my falconry career in Georgia, I owe a debt of gratitude to the late Bob Nalli, who was a mentor even though he was not my sponsor, and also to Malcolm Edwards, whom I never even met—he was my "grand-sponsor", primary teacher to my own sponsor, Joel Volpi. And my NFA friends will, I'm sure, agree that Mike Cox is still very much a part of the Nebraska falconry community, though he's been gone—wow, almost five years now. I think of him often, and hear his voice in my head not at all infrequently. One of my responsibilities is to make sure my apprentice knows something of these great men, and honours their tradition as I do.