How did you learn what you know?
I think it’s pretty much general consensus in our culture today that part of growing up means evaluating different things that people have told you and making your own decisions about what you believe, who you are, what you’ll do, and who you’ll become. It’s general consensus, I think, because in a lot of ways, that’s what actually happens. Especially in our culture, there’s so much choice about what careers to pursue, what values to own, etc. It’s an essential doctrine: When you grow up, you’re supposed to think for yourself.
On the other hand, in another sense, it’s not really what happens in real life. We’re surrounded by values that we pick up on that help us decide what things are acceptable to believe, things that are unacceptable to become, things that are esteemed, and things that are not. Even the rebels among us usually tend to gravitate towards communities that validate the decisions they made. And most times, people rebel not because they reject the purported values of the system, but because the system is perceived to be hypocritical. Lots of anarchists, for example, rebel against democracy because they see democracy as not protecting individual freedom. But most anarchists don’t live in anarchy; they grew up learning to value individual freedom because they grew up in democracies. This doesn’t mean that the anarchists are wrong and the democrats are right, it just means that we all learn our values from somewhere. In addition, we don’t do all our learning as kids and all of a sudden we start thinking for ourselves as adults. Our thinking and decision-making is in dialogue with the people around us. Our thinking needs material to work with, and so thinking for oneself can’t really happen in a vacuum.
I think this is all fairly obvious, I’m guessing no one is going to argue with me about the above. “It’s takes a village to raise a child” rings about as true as the idea that taking the less-traveled road is an ennobling thing.
So what’s to discuss? Well, perhaps we all assent to the idea that our surroundings shape us. We agree that the influences around us can provide us good things as well as bad things, and we know we wouldn’t be able to think ourselves if people hadn’t been around to teach us how to think. I’m not sure though, we always remember these truths when we are thinking, though. By default, we’re often under the illusion that we’re thinking for ourselves. We don’t necessarily give credit where credit’s due; we don’t always take time to evaluate our predjudices. In light of that, it may be valuable to discuss:
How did you learn what you know? Who was a significant person in your life? For good or bad, what’s an event that shaped how you act, what you decided to do with your life, or how you view the world?
And if that’s not enough to talk about, how about this–
What’s one decision that you made that you feel was truly your own?
See you on the boards, or at Gray’s this Thursday night! We’ll be upstairs this month.
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