Some notes on the AGS 2002 Milton Dawes Seminar Series


By Robert James




GS (The Australian Society for General Semantics) was most fortunate to receive a seminar visit in November, from Milton Dawes, highly acclaimed in the “GS world” for his lively and instructive GS presentations.



he Institute generously subsidised Milton’s costs, as well as the promotional process and video-recording.  Since Laurie Cox met Milton in the USA and Canada some years ago, we have been discussing Milton’s articles, debating his ideas and speculating on what it would be like to meet him.



e were not disappointed. Our Sunday afternoon, Wednesday evening and full weekend seminars were a very special and valuable experience, rivalled only by the personal-contact times in-between!  Under the high-order banner of “Success”, Milton led us through experiences ranging from verbal, video and musical presentations, group discussions, role-playing, individual and teamwork exercises, and other activities that are hard to describe!



n the opening one-day session, we found that getting our groups communicating was facilitated by Milton launching straight into a topic so fundamental to everyone’s life.  By challenging us to consider and discuss our individual concepts of  “success”, Milton brought the group together, while creating a focus for each of us on individual needs.  Later we moved on to the concepts and relevance of “structuring“, goal-setting, and issues of personal perspective.  The “challenging chair” exercise, presented in a video, evoked as many interpretations as there were participants, demonstrating the subjective nature of all experience.



he Friday night which commenced the weekend residential seminar, was a most moving event.  Exchanging “wave motion” stories was an excuse to cover all manner of experiences from personal relationships, surfing, parenting, quantum mechanics, eschatology and the Structural Differential, all helped along by a bottle (or two) from Gavan’s excellent roving cellar. My post-seminar survey of participants lists Milton’s “Drumming Session” as the most “special” non-verbal experience of the seminar series.  GS could easily be promoted to “the masses” if only we could carry the strength of this experience through all our activities!



o much for Friday night … There were still another two days to go!  Saturday’s activities included Milton’s ICONS (“Instances of Conditioning), Neuro-semantic and neuro-linguistic environments, map-territory relationships, rhythms of life, invariance under transformation, extensional-intensional perception and verbal-non-verbal awareness.  All woven into a tapestry of discussion, demonstrations, exercises, illustrations, metaphorical magnets, trapezoidal windows, etc.  But is that all?  Well …   NO, but it will do for now!



n Sunday, the final residential day, our group’s capacity to handle contentions relating to the meta-mapping process was sorely tested.  The value of considering a conversation as a sequence of statements, questions, elaborations, comments, advices and suggestions, was seen by some as contrived and unnecessary, and by others as a valuable exercise in enhancing perception without diminishing spontaneity. This was another illustration of the challenge facing us as “g-s practitioners” – How to utilise and promote g-s techniques without boring or alienating family, friends and the wider community? 



he “Awareness walks” were also received with a range of responses.  Contributing an “exertion element” with various individual and pair-wise assignments, these activities livened-up the day, developed awareness of our colleagues, and sparked controversy about the value of adding “But is that all?” (verbally or in thought) to enrich our conversations.



F you think that the Calculus is not something most of us consciously apply to our lives most of the time, or have never enjoyed the privilege of grasping the majesty of it as a mathematical tool, then you might like to read Milton’s article “A Calculus Approach to Everyday Living”.   Our Sunday afternoon session included a struggle with verbal concepts and definitions, abstracting mixed signals (eg colours) as a single entity, and experience the integration of “parts” (orchestration, lyrics, etc) into the “whole” of a “popular music” performance.



ne my strongest impressions is the diversity of recollections among the participants.  Some of our (more verbally inclined?) people remember the explanations of structuring process, functions and variables, or the fundamentals of the Calculus.  Others were intrigued by the analogy of synchronous hanging magnets with their interpersonal relationships.  But everyone carried away something of value from Milton’s myriad experiences and insights, to apply in their post-seminar lives. 


This report cannot convey more than a tiny fraction of even my own experiences from that week.  As some of us would say “… But there’s always more …”


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