What do we mean by learning? (based on a life story)

May 19, 2023



An Indian couple moves to Norway and within a few months, the Norwegian authorities take custody of their two children. This is a real life story recently turned into a Bollywood movie and for us an opportunity to understand the power of culture and cultural differences. This podcast (and the YouTube video) is an attempt to map the story using the iCue method along with Dr Rob Long. The central question we ask in this exercise is ‘what does learning mean’?

Further information



Rob Long, Nippin Anand


Nippin Anand  00:00

Hello and welcome to embracing differences with me Nippin Anand, founder of Novellus, a podcast series dedicated to understanding different perspectives about how we as human beings, or rather, social beings make decisions.


Nippin Anand  00:18

The podcast series draws from different disciplines including religion, mythology, sociology, anthropology, social psychology, biology, neurosciences and stem, making it truly transdisciplinary meaning transporting her rather travelling across disciplines. The idea is not to claim that one method or discipline is superior to the other, but to hold competing disciplines, competing values, diverse perspectives, intention.


Nippin Anand  00:49

And when that happens, we create space for doubt and reflection.


Nippin Anand  00:56

The idea is to enjoy travelling, and the ambiguity that comes with it. Experiencing dissonance discomfort, how else do we learn?


Nippin Anand  01:08

This podcast is about understanding how the iCue mapping can help us understand cultural differences. It is based on a movie that I watched over the weekend called Mrs. Chatterjee versus Norway. And when I saw that movie, I thought, I will want to have a conversation, I will want to practice an iCue session on this. So I invited Dr. Rob long to this. And the key question that emerged during our conversation, what was what does learning mean? What is what is learning, and we spent some time doing an iCue using the case example of this particular movie. I hope you enjoy this conversation. And I would love to hear your thoughts about it. I would even recommend that you watch this iCue mapping on a video, because this conversation will also go on YouTube where you can actually see Rob mapping it whilst I’m speaking. And I think what I would like to show to you or what we would like to bring to your attention is how mapping a conversation using the iCue method can be used in so many different ways to unpack and to understand where our assumptions and biases are.


Nippin Anand  02:45

And I think that is central to learning that is central to understanding how we as human beings make decisions and surfacing them on on a visual screen. So let’s get started.


Nippin Anand  02:59

Rob, I want to talk about a movie that I saw over the weekend. Okay, this movie is about


Nippin Anand  03:11

it’s called Mrs. Chatterjee, which is a very popular surname in, in the, in the eastern part of India. And it’s called Mrs. Chatterjee versus Norway. Yeah, yeah. And the story goes something like this. It is the story of a couple that moves from India to Norway. And, and their child has been taken away the custody of their child has been taken away by the Norwegian authorities, because they think that the children are not safe with their parents. And this comes as a result of a few weeks or months of assessment by the Norwegian authorities. And where they observe the child and their parents and how they interact with each other. And they pick up all the the, the observations, simple things like you know, in India, you feed your children with your hands and that’s perfectly fine. But in Norway, that’s considered to be unhygenic. Yeah, in India, you know, the social division of labour still exists, which means that the husband is a is a breadwinner, and the wife is the caretaker of the home. And that is also alien to the Norwegian culture. And so there are many, many examples like this. I don’t want to go into too much detail but You know, what happens is that the the custody of the child is taken away and the mother is left very, very disturbed as a result of that. And what you see is the Yes, it is affecting the Father also. But his priority is different, his priority is to get become a citizen of Norway, so he wants to citizenship, he does not want any problems, so, he doesn’t want to oppose the law, and the the social institutions too much. Whereas the mother is restless throughout the movie, and she wants to claim the custody of the children back. And what’s, what’s interesting is that there is, there is glimpses of the archetype of the Indian parenting, which I find absolutely fascinating, which most people would would ignore, because, again, you know, you don’t know what to look for, you don’t know what to listen to. So what happens is, during this duration, when the child custody has been taken, the parent in law, or the parents of the of the of the girl, they first visit the the family. And you can see how humble and how helpful they are, in trying to, to help their daughter and the son in law, in the very, very sociable, very helpful, very empathetic towards the couple. And that’s, that’s fascinating. The set, next thing you see is that these parents leave, and the parents of the boy arrive. And you can already sense something fascinating here, some, some arrogance, some, you know, hatred, hatred for the, for the for the girl, she at one point, I find it so fascinating that the, the mother of the boy, of the of the of the of the boy, yes. And the boy himself, who’s working in Norway, they are sleeping in the bed together, and the girl is sleeping on a couch. And that is very, very powerful visual. And I want to quote the work of No, what I want to say is that, I want to ask this very simple question in this iCue session that why don’t we learn? Or what does learning mean? Let’s stick to what does learning mean? And I think, learning to me is, is to first of all, come to terms with your archetype. What’s your archetype? And then try and try and open up to other archetypes if you really want transformation in your life. And the thing that when I saw this particular scene hit me was, quote, a very, very powerful quote from Joseph Campbell. Where he says route, it has always been the prime function of mythology and right to supply the symbols that carry the human human spirit forward, in counteraction to those constant human fantasies that tend to tie back. In fact, it may well be that the very high incidence of neuro neurotic you know, your, you know, neurosis among ourselves follows from the decline among us of such effective spiritual aid. We remain fixated to the unexercised images of infancy, and hence disinclined to the nursery passage of our adulthood. In the unit in the United States, there is even a battles of inverted emphasis. The goal is not to grow old but to remain young, not to mature away from the mother but to cleave to her. And so, while husbands are worshipped, worshipping their boyhood shrines, being the lawyers, merchants or mastermind, their parents wanted them to be their wives, even after 14 years of marriage and to find children produced and raised still on a search for love. Which can you come to them only from the Central was Ceylonese attires and other concupiscent in QB of the route of pan? Now, this is powerful, and it speaks to me, because what it is telling me is that the collective unconscious of an entire country, an entire subcontinent and an entire continent. Is, is, is is anchored to this myth that the mother is the only source of law Up. Unless you’re willing, as Campbell says, very rightly, to move from there and not to say to to ignore it, or to leave it, but to move and also look for love and other sources in life, you are learned anything in life. And I think, if you don’t take it to the Risk and Safety world and ask the same question, what is the archetype of the risk and safety world? And you will get the answer that the resting safety world is anchored in this archetype of certainty and comfort. And unless you come out of it, there is no hope that we can learn anything from it. And I thought that was what I learned from this. They still immensely immensely powerful. That’s all.


Rob Long  10:56

Well, this is your key question. What does learning mean? And there are there are two things that I think about when you talk about this. The first one is, this is not a question that people ask. They, they often the question is often, what can I learn? And that often means what data can I absorb? So when human beings talk about, you know, learning, they often mean, absorbing content knowledge, so they can regurgitate? That’s not what this question is. What does learning mean? Particularly in industries like risk and safety and social psychology, and in areas where we’re learning is embodied? This is not a question that’s asked. The question is, what can I learn? And what they mean by that is what data can I absorb? So this is a very powerful question, this idea, what does learning mean? It’s interesting that you cited Joseph Campbell, can I throw in another person who has a great deal to say about this, particularly in mythology, and that’s Paul Ricoeur. Boricua he I just as just a significant writer, as Campbell, but Paul Ricoeur says that, that myth, that myth is one of the ways in which we invoice engagement with reality. And so we can avoid engagement with reality by filling our heads with encyclopaedic knowledge, with with with with data coming out of our areas, we can get data on data on data. And of course, this is why the word loves loves in artificial intelligence, because of this complete focus on data and measurement. What what what is completely missing is the nature of meaning. Because you said What does data mean? And the real power of this is what is meaning? The phenomenological sense of what does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be a fallible person, and


Nippin Anand  13:37

all myths


Rob Long  13:40

are about avoiding this meaning of you’re a fallible person, one day you will die, you are a vulnerable person, you make mistakes, you are, in fact, it is normal to be in this fallible state. Because fallibility is very much about teaching you about reality, you can surround yourself with as many myths as you like. And and, you know, Joseph Campbell was fantastic about exposing the myth of the hero. But Paul Ricoeur, was fantastic about exposing the myth of constructed unreality. And most of the myths that are constructed particularly in risk and safety, through all of its symbols are astoundingly delusional. You know, Swiss cheese, bow tie, pyramids, curves, all of these things are about trying to tell people that it’s all under control. It’s all safe. We have all the power, we know what to do. We have the systems, all we have to do is invoke them. And if you don’t invoke them, well of course you get injured. If you don’t invoke them, of course, you’ll get hurt. But but that all of that is myth. None of it is real. it none of it is a bit. But the funny thing is, is it’s all about the myth of certainty, like you said over here it so bad it is utter mythology, it is complete myth. It is not real. It is not certain. But, but that’s what safety does. It does exactly the same. So So I that’s what I get from your map is this. What does safety mean? Well, okay, here’s the big question. What is it mean to be a fallible person? What does it mean to be a fallible person? Well, let me tell you, Nippin No one wants to ask that question. No one will tangled us and record us. But now in the in the Risk and Safety world wants to ask that question. Yeah. And I think, yes, I asked the question, what does it mean to be hero? That’s the question.


Nippin Anand  15:48

Yes, absolutely. And I think, yeah, that’s, that’s really insightful. And the thing that I felt which which, you know, you use the word, where is the meaning, where, you know, and I often imagine meaning as some kind of debt class ocean, where you, you keep keep sinking as much as you like, until you hit somewhere where you find anchor, where you find this is, this is how much I how deep I want to go. And that is meaning. It’s always conscious, and you can go as deep as you’d like. But the place where you decide to be in that in that final place, or that place, ocean, is your meaning, metaphorically speaking. Where I found meaning in this story was along the lines of Campbell’s excerpt from the book, which is so many, so that the whole continent is anchored around this myth that the mother is the only source of love. Yeah, you start to think about it. And you see, and you often say, Rob, who does it make powerful? You know, who does this make make powerful and who’s rendered powerless? Of course, it’s the masculine is the man who’s made powerful from this myth, and is the woman who’s who’s who’s whose power and dignity in some way has been stripped out, fostered. And this is where men who experience love not and I’m not suggesting for a minute that you don’t experience love from your mother, it’s important, but men who who receive who, who receive love, not just from the mother, but also from, from their spouse, from their, from their children from others live a more fulfilling life. And it’s what Bergson would call vitality, and vitality is what is missing today, in this course, yes, you can reduce the number of injuries, you can maybe you can reduce reduce people getting harmed, and you can have happy customers. But one aspect that we are not touching upon is what about the vitality of the and I think this Joseph Campbell is absolutely right. It sends you into this into the stages of neurosis and psychosis most of the time. Yeah. Correct. Is living in those four quadrants not denying either one of them?


Rob Long  18:09

Yes, yes. And, and I think, I think Campbell, and Ricker and the phenomenologists really get to this, you should not have been in the fallible person. And and here, but but but I’ll just put here being and living. The funny thing is, is, you know, a lot of people are not interested in being in living, they’re not interested in learning. They’re interested in accumulation of data. And they call that learning which it’s not, the accumulation of data, the collection of data is not living exactly death, it is collection, the collection of data is stasis, it’s not movement.


Nippin Anand  18:58

And the beauty of it is going back to the idea of meaning, as you rightly pointed out in the code quadrant in the bottom left quadrant, because if you go back to data, you and I can both tell the world that there is suffering in the world today, because because people in Ukraine are dying, right? People dying in Ukraine, and we have all the stats to support that. What meaning does it make to one person as against the other? That is a question you need to ask, we can tell the world but meaning meeting is still very subjective. Down to the individual down to the person. Yeah.


Rob Long  19:36

Yeah, well, this for me, this whole discussion with you hinges on this question. What does learning mean? Rather than what can I learn or what can I absorb? And a lot of people don’t think of this question. What does learning mean? What is the meaning of learning? What is the purpose purpose of learning, and we’re back here, we’re back to the fallible person. You know, I, I, regardless of what I learn, regardless of what I absorb, regardless of what I move, regardless of where I go, I will always remain a fallible person. Yet all the systems that we create systems, you know, whatever is up here, is completely separated from the fundamental question, what is it to be a person? What is it to be a person? Their question is, how can I control? What I see? How can I exercise power over the things I don’t agree with? Yes, completely. It’s completely opposite to this question of what is being and living, and I see no difference in risk and safety, it’s the same thing, what can I control? What can I overpower, not? How can I live with others? How can I be a person in the world that’s of no interest? In particular, I see a big, a big connection between between this one here, your question, and this one here about, about being and learning and living and the fallible person, and you just don’t see this language anywhere. No one’s interested in the meaning of life, when you’re busy accumulating how much money you can have in your bank account. And when you’re busy accumulating property, or you’re busily accumulating possessions, the last thing you ask is meaning, you know, having run, you know, 1000 funerals in 1000 churches over, you know, five years, you know, putting people in the ground. The last question people care about when they’re putting their loved one in the ground is, what do I own? And how much have I accumulated? The first question in your mind is, I’ve lost my loved one. Why have I lost them? And I wish I had them back. I wish I could love them more. It doesn’t matter that you’ve got a BMW parked in the driveway outside the church, it doesn’t matter that you’ve got, you know, a mansion pack, you know, 50 kilometres from the church, it doesn’t matter that your bank account has, you know, a million dollars in it. The moment you go to a funeral, the question they ask is, what is it to learn? What does it mean to be a fallible person? And what is being unloving? Because I’m looking at a box with a 14 year old child in it, who’s suicided? And I have no answers. I have no answers. My questions proved to be completely faultless the question of what can I absorb? And what can I accumulate is meaningless.


Nippin Anand  22:48

Great, thank you. This has been such a powerful discussion.


Rob Long  22:52

Yeah. And all this kind from your movie, you know. And, and I think I think it’s, we have so much to work learn from those kinds of movies, which, which, which actually, movie makers are fantastic of creating this massive contradiction between the narrative power and the narrative of being so, so important that movie makers a narrative and novelists do this.


Nippin Anand  23:21

And this is what, Sorry, I interrupted you.


Rob Long  23:26

No, no, you’re right. You’re right. You’re right. It’s,


Nippin Anand  23:29

it’s so true. Because the moment I saw that woman in the bed with her son, yep. I could relate it with the collective unconscious of an entire continent. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that came as a as it was, in the subliminal it was in the unconscious. Again, it’s you it takes you right arrow? Because well, you can you deny all the data that I give you about divorces about unsuccessful marriages, about women going into into into psychological or mental health illnesses, and you will deny that but the moment I show you a glimpse of who we are, in the unconscious, you get it. And you know, Rob, this is what I love about why you method. This is not about teaching the outside world, what you should and shouldn’t do in the name of learning. It is really to put a mirror in on your own face to say, This is who you are. And if you want to learn, you want to you want you have to realise what’s in your unconscious? Yes. Well, look,


Rob Long  24:42

I’ve met the dialectic between the mother’s restlessness and the collective unconscious, we know everything. And then you’ve got this Indian family that that work off the paradigm of intimacy and family and myth and ritual. And that is the family reality. And so there’s this massive dialectic conflict between the mother’s restlessness, she’s the insightful one. And this you know, excellent. So


Nippin Anand  25:11

so a related concept which which really interests me is the dialectic between the, the subculture of, of the woman, and the sub caste men. And that’s the bit I find very interesting that the only way to liberate yourself, the only way to learn from it is for the husband to become aware of the archetype in which he is caught, in which he was life. Yeah, but he’s trapped


Rob Long  25:39

in the hero. He’s trying to be a citizen. But she’s, she’s in the reality. She’s in the reality of fallibility. She’s not seduced by the myth of if only I become a citizen, if only I become a Norwegian, I will finally achieve what I want in life. That’s a complete delusion. She knows that the reality of life is, how do I create intimacy and being living with my children? How do I embrace fallibility? So I live in reality, not in the mythology constructed by Norwegian authority or by Norwegian counter mythology.


Nippin Anand  26:18

So so this is an interesting one, I would like you to talk a little bit more about what you mean, when you say that she that I get the bit about the husband, he wants to make a name for himself, he wants to be the hero. He wants to be the successful person.


Rob Long  26:35

He will save the day, he will say today, yeah, he’s the Saviour.


Nippin Anand  26:40

Help me and help the people who listen to this understand what you mean, when you say that the woman is in touch is in touch with the fallibility. She is more living in reality. Well, I love


Rob Long  26:54

that you this is not my words, this was your confession, this was your gift here. So So you use the word restless, right? And a position of restlessness is that you never arrive. The position of restlessness is you always move, you never get to success. You never get to failure. You never get to achieve, you never get to what the Father wants, you don’t get the outcome, you don’t get the behaviourist achievement, you don’t get where you want to be. She’s not fixated on quantitative world. She’s restless, she’s constantly moving. She’s in the dialectic between the fallible person, and the conflict with the authoritarian hegemony of the Norwegian authority, and her own husband who’s trying to manage all of this, to find a solution, she knows there is no solution, she knows there is only suffering infallibility in the face of the power of the Norwegian archetype, which is that that archetype of the hero, the archetype of power, the one who wants to control and solving everything and fix everything in the world, she knows there’s no fixation, she knows there’s no fixed, she’s rested. That’s why she’s restless. But she’s the only person you see that resonates with cable and Ricola. She’s the only one the father doesn’t connect with Campbell or Ricoeur, only the mother does. And I think I think in many ways, that’s because she has suffered greatly. And so she’s identifying with suffering. And, and, and, you know, the delusions of that kind of masculine if I only become a citizen, this will all be fixed. That that’s, that’s more of the mythology that I can hide fallibility, with whatever I do, you know, my bank account or my citizenship, or whatever I’ve achieved, but it sounds I haven’t seen the movie, but it sounds to me like the movie is portraying the the conflict of the ideology of mythical being and the radical fallibility of the mother. And her reality knowing that, that, that, that this dreaming of ideological power is alien to the very phenomenological being of what it is to be a mother what it is to be a child in the midst of all this suffering, though. Yeah, I’ll have to. I’ll have to watch the movie. Nippin


Nippin Anand  29:36

Yeah, it’s it’s it’s very good. Is it? Yeah. I I really watch movies, Rob, but, but this was no. And the other thing, Rob, is that when you become semiotically and politically aware, you see things that many people don’t see. Oh, yeah, and And I can almost see that if I was the previous me, I would have been caught. First of all, I wouldn’t go to see this movie. Second thing is I would go the everything about the the in the in the top two quadrants is nothing but what Neil Postman will call entertainment amusement. Yeah, to me. Yeah. But when you go down when you go deep inside, you go in the subliminal in the unconscious. This is where, you know what semiotics and poetic stage is the non measurable it’s the things that cannot be fixed, and we have to live with them. This is where the real opportunity for learning lands.


Rob Long  30:40

Yeah, and and Ricoeur makes this fantastic connection between semiotic poetic knowing. And he says, Once you strip away, and you d mythologize the myth, once you d mythologize your myth, you’re always left with the symbol, the language of symbol. And so the bridge between the bridge between semiotic poetic awareness, meaning and fallible person is, in fact, the language of symbol. And that’s, that’s really cool. He says, you know, you’re it doesn’t matter all your words and all your noise. In the end, you have no meaning because all they do is contribute more to mythmaking. But if you strip the myth away, you’ve left with the language of symbol that can’t be measured, that has no power, that that has no presence in this authoritarian world. It has a language of its own, and it always remains. And so the mother serves as this as a symbol of love, of the symbol of weakness of the symbol of vulnerability in the face of all these people, you know, yelling out the word power and control. And she sits within that in her restlessness knowing none of you know what real meaning is, you don’t know what meaning is, she connects to the symbol of her motherhood, and to meaning infallibility. She’s the only one here who really knows how to be and how to live. The rest have entered into even the father’s entered into acknowledging the authoritarian Norwegian government that says, we have the power, you know, we have the authority. And that’s the again, it’s the archetype of the king. It’s the archetype of, but it’s delusional. It’s not real. Yeah. Is there anything else Rob, you would like to say? No, no, no, no, I a very interesting, you know, it’s interesting how the IQ board helps us draw out. You know, we start with a movie and we ended up with, you know, I’ve not seen the movie. But, you know, many, many movie makers are Phyllis falafel philosophers, you know, you don’t have to be a big fan of Steven Spielberg, or these people to realise that their movies are about the philosophy of life and the philosophy of being. And they often do it through contrast, or through satire through or through comparison. And I see two big comparisons between this kind of workspace negativity, and the psychology and the cultural collective unconscious. And the tensions between here, you know, I don’t know the movie, so I don’t know where the mother gets to. But but, you know, the, the, the ideology of authority is always about winning. But the other ideology of them, the restless mother is about being not winning, not interested in winning. They interested in intimacy and connection.


Nippin Anand  33:48

Yeah, this is a true story. And in the end, you know, she has Campbell would say she gets her kids back from the authorities. But from the beginning, she is not seeking power. All she is love and harmony and peace with her children. And makes it fascinating.


Rob Long  34:08

Look at that, look at that word up there. The power up there. That’s, that’s what that’s really what’s running underneath. And that connects to the government. And it also connects to the Father. If only I if only I control the world, I’ll find meaning. And she says, no, no, no. If only I can surrender power or find meaning.


Nippin Anand  34:31

Yes, and seek love is all I do. That’s


Rob Long  34:34

yeah, that’s right. That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. One amazing map. Nippin. The back gets good. Yeah, I’ll watch the movie and I’ll chat to you later about it.


Nippin Anand  34:47

I still keep thinking about this one question. And you very rightly highlighted that as the big part of this whiteboard is What does learning mean? I love this story. And I think this is a huge, huge problem in the continent at the moment. It is almost like that. That’s what an irony you know that we worship goddesses, we got 3600 goddesses, maybe more than that, as and, and very few Gods very few Gods mostly goddesses. And yet, according this paradox that you know, a woman is less than a man. And disturbing, very disturbing


Rob Long  35:31

is the alternative question. So,



what data can I accumulate? Right?


Rob Long  35:45

This is the question that stands in confident contrast, the addiction to What does learning mean? And I look at most of the things in leadership and management and risk and safety. And this is a question, what data can I accumulate? Not? What does learning mean, you know, I see people running around, you know, have no expertise in learning, no expertise in in epistemology, no expertise in experience in education or learning? And that’s a question, what data can I accumulate it, and they call it learning teams, you know, or they call it learning moments. And it’s got nothing to do with learning learnings in the mother. That’s where the learning is. It’s in the dialectic of the mother, but in the father, who’s trying to, you know, join with the power of the government. learning’s in the mother, this is Martin Buber, and recurrent Campbell telling you that if you want to know about learning in this story, don’t don’t go to the accumulation of data, go to the mother, you’ll learn about learning here, you know,


Nippin Anand  36:49

in the same way as when an accident happens on the off deck of the ship, go and able seamen, don’t. What would he or she know,


Rob Long  36:59

or nothing, nothing, they have no power. This is a theologian I know called Juergen Moltmann, a very, very close. He wrote a book called he wrote a book called The Power of the powerless. Absolutely, and the power of the powerless. And this is a contradiction to this dynamic power, which which we think is important. The real power in this story is of the power of the mother to be silent. The power of the mother to listen, the power of the mother to embrace the power of the mother to engage. This is where the power is here. This power up here is mythical power. It’s not real.


Nippin Anand  37:41

Great, great. So it’s so cathartic.


Rob Long  37:52

I watch the movie and I’ll let you know.


Nippin Anand  37:54

Yes. See, I it’s it’s those small little things that that make it such a beautiful movie as it is.


Rob Long  38:02

I’ll watch it. I’ll watch it


Nippin Anand  38:10

Do you have any questions, any feedback, any comments, any criticism, you can always write to us? You can write to me personally at support@novellus.solutions. You can also leave a message for us on our website novellus.solutions. You can email me personally at nippin.anand@novellus.solutions and you can find me on LinkedIn. Until then, have a good day.