[These pages were authored by the late Thoki Yenn, and were restored here from the Internet Archive by Erik Demaine, with contributions of missing files from various readers (notably Tommy Stevens, Roberto Morassi, and Boaz Shuval). If you spot any other bugs like missing images or pages, please report them.]

corrected Thoki Yenn talk at Asilomar.

Viewpoint to be aired at the  
3rd International Conference on Origami in Science,  
Math and Education,
by Thoki Yenn, Denmark. 

       I have been informed that I have 20 minutes for my speech and 
then 5 minutes for your questions, but I thought it might be a good idea 
that we start with you asking me questions, and then my answers 
would be my speech because then I would know what You are 
interested in hearing me talk about. 
     Not acceptable ? O.K. 
     I have brought my own kitchen timer, and I will set it at 18 minutes. 
     I am well aware that there are rumor's about me that I am totally 
controlled by my daemons, but I hope that my rather noble form of 
insanity might be acceptable, as it harms no one and I am helped by 
my little PR man the Great and Glorious Pesky Kalmon of the North. 
     To begin with Kalmon only called himself the Great and Glorious 
but on the Origami list Julia Palffy suggested to add “of the North”,
 and later Russell Sutherland called him “pesky”, so he proudly 
added the these honorable titles to his name. 
      Kalmon wants me to be sensible and serious, but I have to live up 
to the reputation and image that I have worked so hard for, over the years, 
namely that this Thoki Yenn is crazy and moves in mysterious ways 
around the borders of insanity. He is listening to the demons in his 
inner advisory council, where Kalmon is the Prime minister. 
                        So we will see how all this will develop. 
 I shall try to be as lucid and direct in expressing my views about 
what is generally considered to be an important part of education and 
have therefore given this talk the Title: 
                            “Teaching is impossible”. 
    It might sound as if I am just trying to be funny - which I am, 
but I hope you will agree that teaching to take place is totally 
dependent on the willingness and the ability to learn in the person, 
which the teaching is aimed at. 
    Before I go deeper into that, I want to say a few words about words. 
Words, when we use them correctly are supposed to create pictures. 
So, why don’t we use pictures instead of words,  O.K. we do in diagrams.
    I shall return to that later. 
    In Danish we use a Greek Word: onomatopoetikon. 
                     ONO- MATO-POET-IKON 
    literally translated, by me, word make - make picture. 
    Make words, which make pictures. In my English dictionary the 
word is onomatopoeia, and it says that it means the formation of words 
in imitation of sounds, as crack, splash or bow-wow.  
    What I am aiming at is this: to be sure that your pupil, victim, friend, 
audience, whatever, gets the idea. To be sure they understand what you 
want her/him to do, is that the words you use should ideally create a 
picture in the mind of the person, a picture which tells her/him 
the action which has to take place. 
    This of course is dependent on the persons ability to understand 
the words you are using. Very few Eskimos understand the language 
spoken in Mesopotamia, which by the way means: the middle of river. 
    I just love words, when I understand them, so I have spent and still do
spend a lot of time finding out what words really mean. 
    The etymology of the words are important to me, not just the definition of 
the word, note the difference.  Words, even with the same etymological 
derivation can have different definition according to the subject matter you 
are dealing with, I know that, I have had quite a lot of trouble understanding 
computer language,  because there the use of the words are not obvious 
from their meaning given in an ordinary dictionary.  
    The derivation of words are very important to me, because I have 
found out that if I could speak with a full understanding behind every 
word I used, then I would have a better chance of being understood. 
     So, an important point is, that you yourself understand what you want 
to say and do, and the better you understand the level of understanding 
in the person you are addressing the better chances of getting through 
with your message, be it visible or audible.  
    So why don’t I just speak in pictures? How do I speak in pictures? 
    By miming, acting, showing the action and using very few, but 
descriptive words, that make pictures in the minds of your audience 
whether they be one or two or 35 persons. Your body language is also 
Important, for instance like this:
   With your fingers you draw a square in the air. 
Square - middle - fold edge to edge - rectangle - long short. 
Silent Chinese sign language. 
   By the way - Gay Merril Gross, a very clever lady, whom I met in 
London some years ago, she told a very simple, but very effective 
story, while acting out, how to fold a simple box. 
Lillian Oppenheimer called this box for the Magazine Cover Box. 
    The story is about the brothers Long and the brothers Short - it 
was so easy afterwards to remember the folding sequence because the 
actions followed the story so nicely. This was very effective teaching, 
so perhaps teaching is possible for some gifted persons.  
    I will put your attention more on the ability to learn and how 
to the arouse the interest of the learners. 
   From my TV I have learnt that an octopus has the ability to learn, 
It has very good eyesight, and I have seen it, on my TV, open a bottle 
with screw top to get at the thing that was clearly visible inside the bottle. 
    Coordinating  hands and brain like the Octopus reminds of a situation 
where I found it helpful to have at least one extra hand. 
    I was trying to assembly the the Butterfly ball by Kenneth Kawamura 
and I found a way of creating a third hand by folding a small low rimmed 
box to hold the first 4 element from sliding apart. The box I prefer for
 that is the un-unfoldable box by Ed Sullivan. I usually fold the butterfly 
ball by cutting ordinary 15 cm Origami paper into four squares.  
    The helping-hand-box is folded from an uncut square so that the  inside 
measure of the box is the size of the small squares. 
    Gay Merril Gross has been kind enough to publish this Idea together with 
he instructions of the Butterfly Ball in her book: The Art of Origami.  
    This goes along with what I have always believed. Every thing alive has 
the ability to learn.  Even I have it.  It is part of the ability to survive. 
    We learn by seeing , experiencing, seeing feeling hearing, even blind people 
learn by making mental pictures of what they touch and hear. 
    From Shakespeare I learned how to entertain and hold the interest of
 an audience. An example is his presentation of the ghost of Hamlet’s Father.  
    There is talk about, then it is shown, and then there is talk about it.     
    Tell them what is going to happen, show them what is happening, then 
talk about what has happened.   
    If you want to educate, not just getting across how to fold a specific 
model, meaning you want the person to learn to think on her own, then you
do not tell them what to do, you ask them in stead of telling them.       	G
    Give them something they know, along with something that they CAN do, 
something that will make them find out something they did not know, 
that is learning, finding out something you did not know that you knew.  
    That reminds me of The Dialogue of Plato where he lets Socrates 
demonstrate the method in his dialogue of Meno, where he, by asking 
questions of the boy Anytus, guides him to find out how to find the side 
of a square that is double the area, thereby showing that the boy was getting
the answers from inside himself, this was an answer to Meno*s question:  
   “Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue can be taught, or is acquired
 by practice, not teaching? Or if neither by practice nor by learning, 
whether it comes to mankind by nature or in some other way? 
    Virtue in the meaning the power of knowledge. 
    So ask your pupils what they think should be done, if they for instance 
would like to fold a bird. This should come after you have shown them 
the way how Alice Gray had shown me, how to fold the diagonals on 
one side of the paper and the middle folds on the other side of the paper, 
then flip flop it like this, push down the middle and see that the corners come up 
in different ways, one way inviting you to  fold it flat as a square and the
other inviting you to make a triangle. 
    Ask them, how would you make a corner more pointed, and see what they 
suggest, validate their efforts. 
   You might end up with getting some new ideas from your pupils, and 
discover: what I found in an e-mail to the Origami list on the internet. 
   “They were having so much fun, that they probably did not’t realize they
were learning”, a very nice observation by Marilyn, don’t know her last name. 
   Curiosity also seems to play an important role in learning.  
   Joan Homeward of England states in an e-mail to the Origami List: 
   I quote: “I would like to share an origami miracle with you. Many years ago 
a lady named Katherine from Vancouver came to a BOS meeting and I invited
her to stay for a few days with my family. She told me of this miracle,
She had been a nun and was working as a nurse in a high class old folks 
nursing home. One of the ladies in her late eighties had taken to her bed, 
refused to get up and had to be washed, fed, etc. There was nothing 
physically wrong with this lady. Katherine spent half an hour each day sitting
with her and folded simple models whilst talking, but never mentioning the
paper or what she was doing This went on for a few months until one day 
the lady picked up a piece of the paper and tried to copy what Katherine 
was doing. After several days she asked for help.
    The end of this story is the miracle. The lady started to get up and look
after herself and with her new lease of life, started to help in the home with 
the other patients! 
    You might not know this, but I actually came into Origami through the use
of my scissors. It is a long story. I will give you a very short version. 
    From a Magic Convention in Amsterdam in 54, a British magician
 reported to Robert Harbin, that a Danish Magician Thoki Yenn was doing
Origami Animals, and he wrote this in his first Book PAPER MAGIC. 1956.  
    Lillian Oppenheimer read this and found me in Copenhagen in 1957.
    She asked me to do some Origami, and that was the first time I heard the
word, and she taught me a very neat traditional Box and a Yoshizawa 
Butterfly. After that there was no looking back. I was hooked. 
    Learning is depending on interest, you yourself will learn something when
you see how a person who  is interested will find a way to learn something 
even when the subject is very difficult for him. 
    It has to do with endurance.  I know,  when I came to London to do Films
with Animated Paper sculpture in 1948, it was all very new and difficult for me. 
Before that when something was too difficult I just gave it up, shrugged my
shoulders and said to myself: “So what ? I can’t do this, I can do something
else”.  But this, making these paper animals move was so important to me,
so close to my childhood dreams, that I just did not want to give in.  
    I forced myself beyond the borders of sanity, I was trying to learn 
something that I could not do, to find out how much or how little to move
this dead thing on the table top, between shooting the single frames on the 
film strip, so that this thing would later give the illusion of being alive, when
the film was screened. 
    I was cutting time into thin slices stacked in my memory, forcing myself 
to visualize that this folded piece of paper in the form of an animal was 
moving. This started speculation about time and motion, and  I came to the
conclusion that Time and Motion did not exist.  
    At that time I did not know that an ancient Greek philosopher had come to 
 the same result. 
    Time and motion are merely illusions, they exist only in the mind. There is 
no actuality, only the illusion we call reality, and reality is only what the group
can agree upon. What I discover as being an actuality for me, may not be 
agreed upon by my surroundings, so if I speak or act from my actuality,
I might be regarded as weird or crazy, until and unless I can make the group
around me experience the same as I do. Make them learn to see, what I see.  
    This may sound dangerous, if someone develops the ability to make people
see things in a new and different way, then he might seduce people into
changing their minds about what is considered right and wrong, and therefore
such people must be isolated. 
    Back to the so-called reality of this group. I am sure that most of you 
believe that if a person can fold a piece of paper into apparently impossible 
shapes without breaking the paper and can follow a diagram,  that  it is 
possible to follow, then you will probably believe, that this impossibility can 
become an actuality for anyone who is willing to go through the agony of
learning to do the thing.  I find that the sales argument that a thing is easy, 
has no real sales value, it is the challenge that grabs you. 
    When she says: “ When I can do this, so can you”. And she is right. 
    It is not advisable to be too funny while attempting to teach, it distract
the ability to observe and think.  When I was doing Magic, in my younger
days I was using this making jokes and silly remarks to misdirect the 
attention, but when you are doing Origami in front of pupils you don’t 
want to misdirect, you want to guide their attention and intention. 
    The language of diagrams, the paper itself speaking in the drawings where 
the changing faces of the paper tells the story without words is a very old way
of telling what can and will happen. Just think of the cave drawings from the
stone age. I am not saying that they are diagrams for folding the animals, 
but they are showing what happens when you are hunting the animals. 
So they are diagrams.  
    The symbols used do not really need any words to explain the action. 
    An arrow is easy to understand. A square in one drawing and a square with
a bent corner in the next is telling the action, and the arrow showing that the
corner point should go to a specific place in the plane is just a simplified hand
pointing at the place marked by a cross, it is like reading a map for treasure 
hunting, a cross marks the place where you have to go, to reach the end 
result of holding the valuable finished model in your own hands, and  
experience the joy of knowing that you have done this with your own hands.
    That is the real value of Origami. 
    Not the looking at the beautiful models other people has been doing.
    Not watching other people folding things, but it is the actual doing the 
folding yourself, that is the teal value of Origami. The change in the shape of
the paper is not the value, but the change in you, after having reached the 
result that you wanted to reach.
    There is a great difference in the approach between doing one session 
showing a group how to fold a model using Origami technique, and holding 
a course that goes over weeks or a whole semester. 
    When you have a whole series of sessions with the same audience it is a
good Idea to spend some time going over the symbols and the basic moves 
shown in diagrams, and go into bases and really make your pupils experience
the difference between valleys and mountains. 
    Just show the actions and without words make your audience do the same
    Personally I have worked with different groups and I must admit, that I am
only really interested in working with people that already know something 
about Origami, and who like to fold along in company, experience the joy 
of handling paper and see it take form.
  A beginners course ? Who are these beginners, have 
they been dragged there, cajoled by friends that are already hooked and 
now they are pressing them to come along, I have seen this when we had 
meetings in the that time quite young Origami Denmark. 
    Geometry. Don't try to force geometry on to the unsuspecting beginner 
and specially not to Children, although it is easier than mentioning these
these subjects to adults. 
    Young children they don’t have this preconceived idea that mathematics 
is difficult and they know enough to be able to do Origami.  
    Please don’t permit your pupils to give up, do not let them buckle under
to self-censure and limitations of their creative abilities.  
    The question of motive enters into it.  
    You have to look closely at your own motive as a would-be teacher, 
and as a folder. That brings me to a question which I intended to talk about
at the 2nd meeting at Otsu in Japan in 1994, and I was not able to get a grip
on it then, so I will try now. 
    It has to do more to do with unfolding, trying to find something out,
trying to unfold the deepest secret which I would like understand.  
    What is Consciousness? My only tool is my mind and the use of language
Can the mind understand the mind ? Can the eye see itself ? 
Can the most subtle knife cut itself.  
    You don’t have to know anything when you start folding Paper. 
    Are there no rules?  
    What really are the rules of a game.  To have a game. To play  is anything
to do with the way things are formed: puzzles, action models, and words.  
    The wonder of seeing what can happen with the plain piece of paper
that you have in your own  hands is something marvelous to observe,
it talks to your imagination. I-magi-nation?. Imagination. 
    So, play around with the words and doodle with the words as you 
do with paper, when you want to create something, let your subconscious, 
what ever that is, decide. Use the symbols from Origami which is really 
age old sign language. An arrow means direction and a circular arrow means 
turn  around. So I turn the words around.  
    Applying  the system to the words. I fold the words into a model of a new
meaning. I start with Imagination. That ability is developed by doing Origami. 
It can not be taught.  It can be learned by doing.  
    So, this, my words here are only fingers pointing at the moon. 
But don’t look at the fingers, look at the moon. 
    Become a moonraker. Be lunatic.  
    Lunacy turned around is  y-c-a-nul = I see a zero (moon) 
    In Alchemy the moon stands for silver, and that is why I, being a  lunatic 
likes the Silver Rectangle. 
    Imagination = no, it an I gami (game) = it is a personal thing.  
    No i tani gami.  In Japanese,  no = ability, talent; I = mind, will, intention,  
    tani = valley;  gami  = kami = paper, spirit. 
    To fold is an ability of the spirit.
    So please be kind to yourself and your pupils and remember:  
    “We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams, 
    and yet we are the movers and shakers of the world forever it seems”.   
   Thank you for not running away all of you. 
                                                                                              Thoki Yenn. 
Put up 28. April 2001 You may also use this if you feel like it. CLICK

FastCounter by bCentral