The first three chapters of the Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility (2000), restate an idea that is resonant in recent psychology, neurology, social science, spiritualism, physics and education which is: We have constructed a left brained world, and our health and survival depends on our learning how to integrate the right side, and body as well. In psychology, it emerges as techniques to integrate our many intelligences with our experience. In Neurology it is the discovery of the true nature of knowledge and perception (Jensen, 2008). In Social Sciences it is the understanding that the scientist must interact with their test groups, because they cannot be isolated from them (Budiani, 2003). In Spiritualism, Eckhart Tolle (Tolle, 2005) and many others teach that the insanity around us can only be transformed through surrendering our ego (left brained construct) to the emergence of a larger consciousness (integrated brain, body, awareness). In physics, the understanding that observers are in measurable relationship to the outcome of particle collisions and that all matter and energy are in relation (Zukav, 1984) – pointing to the possibility of infinite number of universes (Stenger, 2000).
Zander’ and so many ‘convergence’ authors agree that many skills of competition strangle our creativity by constructing a reality built with limited sensory input into assumptive self-storymaking. This is basic modern psychology as well as ancient Eastern religious science. We only see and octave of light frequencies, missing a great deal around us.  Our left brain creates a narrative out of disparate, unrelated sensory input that has been connected with our right brain’s pattern-making ability. The book’s premise is that understanding of the house of cards nature of our constructed experiences is crucial to our ability to break free from rat-race competitive, stressed-out lives and move into a more creative and engaged life.
I like witnessing this great convergence of science and spiritualism. Employing Zander’s ‘possibility’ in real life is good for everyone: in business, in our relationships and in our self-understanding. I created a similar mentor based, non-authoritative relationship to my classes teaching popular music history, as well. I explained to my students that music is their experience, not mine, to place a ‘now’ importance of our class meetings in perspective. I explained that my opinions about music were irrelevant, and that their awareness of the many styles of musical expression they had never heard to be a great gift. And, of the music itself – the fact that no music style is ‘better’ than another, and that every listener is attracted to their music according to their unique mix of intelligences, experiences and desires. That concept recognized their own personal passions for music, as well as their future audiences’.
But we have a ways to go. Engagement with the emerging concepts requires careful navigation in today’s world. Bringing such new techniques into the workplace or the classroom would bear fruit, but would first require a complete overhaul of our assessment system and governing values. Giving an A, for example, as described in “The Art of Possibility is a beautiful technique, but is not an assessment. An “A” is a measurement (old world), and as a measurement conveys how well the students met the goals of the class. The ‘Giving an A’ is rather a technique of providing each student ownership through their own creative self-visualization (new world). Inspiring students to the possibilities of the class outcome is quite brilliant, but itself is ‘out of the box’ in most education assessment methods. It may only work in music or physical education because they are demonstrative and imminently assessable. For example, either you can play a piece or not. Either you play that piece expressively or not. Either you can demonstrate 10 pull-ups or not. Musicians abilities are exposed. This cannot be said of most academic education where assessments are only made on specific objects (papers, projects, etc.) made for the purpose of assessment. There is no way to measure how much is retained after each assessed object. I do not believe that our society is yet ready, unfortunately. There are too many citizens who could not subscribe to subjecting their children to such life-changing concepts in public school, outside of their chosen religious, familial or political circles – and their voting voice is just as strong.
Budiani, D. (2003) personal interview regarding COFS
Jensen, E. (2008) Brain-based learning: the new paradigm of teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press
Stenger, V (2000) Timeless Reality: Symmetry, Simplicity, and Multiple Universes. New York: Prometheus Books
Tolle, Eckhart (2005) A new earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose, New York: Penguin Group, Inc.
Zander, B., & Zander-Stone, R., (2000) The art of possibilities: Transforming professional and personal life. London: Penguin Books.
Zukav, G (1984) The dancing wu-li masters: an overview of the new physics. NY Bantam Books

Art of Possibility - Zander - cover.png

  • Reply

    Karen Smith

    11 07 2010

    Interesting, the way you put the words of Zander and the words of Tolle. I actually had not even considered them being even close, but that is what is so neat about reading things, and then, seeing the way we see them, feel them and think about them.
    It’s true that some of the most important parts of music are things that are difficult to grade, such as putting the expression in the piece you are playing.
    How does a clarinet instructor teach the student to put feeling into Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto? You just really can’t. You can play it for them, let them hear it on a great recording, see it, if it’s on you tube or something like that, but ultimately, they have to learn to feel that piece AND to make their playing have that feeling in it.
    Even though I play, and love to play, I can remember laughing at instrumentalists who seemed to almost fall over playing their instruments with feeling. Now that I am an adult, I still think there is a little exhibitionist in the ones that seem to go overboard. Oh well, that’s just my opinion, but I have always had a bit of a laugh over extreme movements when playing. NOT some movement, just the extreme ones.
    So, when grading Students in Solo and Ensemble, it not only depends on playing the notes correctly, pitch and time, but also playing it with feeling and expression.
    You can give grades for the notes played corectly, but it won’t be great, without the feeling of the music, the grade won’t be superior (5).
    In Math, it’s like getting the answer and not showing the work. Or in English, knowing all the various parts of speech, but not belng able to diagram the sentence. I guess it’s all relative.

  • Reply

    Vendelin (Vandy) Vela-Schneidt

    12 07 2010

    Keith, first of all, please hear and see my standing ovation for a well written and insightful response. Your blog title, Keith Lay, composer is also descriptive of your authorship; this piece is a symphony.
    I am in harmony with your thoughts. However, I offer this one variation to your melody. �This would require a complete overhaul of our assessment system.?� Yes, but not if we all in some small way implement �The Art of Possibility.� Like you, I often think �big picture� but what if I just began applying �The Art of Possibility� within my own sphere. It could catch, much like a Pay It Forward or a wildfire. Just because the whole of education does not embrace the idea or overhaul itself does not hamper my implementation of possibility in my own life.

  • Reply

    Keith Lay

    19 07 2010

    Wow, Vandy – you are So right –
    I’m not waiting around anymore. A Wildfire! Zen teacher and ecologist Ian Prattis says only 2% of the population is needed to reach that tipping point.
    Thank you for your words

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