Foreword, 3

It is plain common sense that one must learn to walk before one can learn to run, and learning proceeds by sequences and degrees: the next rests on the previous. But there’s more to it than meets the eye, as the ensuing difficulties and the misunderstanding causing them do not occur simultaneously. There is a lag between them, and the make−or−break issue is whether you know about this lag or not. Do not seek the cause of the problem where you’re apparently having it; you’re not only wasting time, far worse you’re at risk of giving up convinced you cannot find it and therefore solve it. The reason is that you’re barking up the wrong tree: the right tree is one you’ve just passed by. If you stumble while learning to run, carefully seek your gaps in walking first, only then in running. The last steps that seem to you that they’re ok are just those you’ll inspect more carefully. And the first place where to do it is in your dictionary: is there anything you do not fully understand in the very definition itself? Or in the basics and symbols of that dictionary? Clarify that, first. And never forget about that lag from there onwards: wherever you are, whenever you stumble, inspect the step just behind you, first.

Even though thoughts and ideas do not have physical size and mass, they nonetheless eat up your mind space as if they had. Particularly when you’re learning new ones you still don’t know and have to understand. As your mind gets crammed full your grasp goes out because when you keep everything in mind you spend too much attention just to keep everything in place, so you’re left too little to work through it. Under such circumstances, the material universe comes in quite handy: nothing like taking the change out of your pocket and scatter it on the desk to count it. You relieve your attention of the mass of thoughts by dumping it on the material mass: just like children playing with toys, you assign every part of the idea to a chunk of stuff, and then stage that idea physically; or you appoint yourself a draughtsman and sketch it, no matter how roughly. If you can disentangle it, you’ll get it; if you can’t, you know there are misunderstood words or symbols to find and clarify.