Back to School

I have never understood people who complain about going to school.



I’ve only been in classes for about two weeks now and I’ve learned an insane amount. No, no the “temporary tattoo” kind of learning where you stamp facts in your head for a test. When I say these classes have taught me a lot, I mean that entire premises in my head that I had held to be facts were shattered, destroyed and completely reformed. When I say these classes have taught me a lot, I mean that every time I attend a lecture or sit down with a book, it feels as if I’m wrestling with my misconceptions.

It’s intense.

And I’ve only been attending class for a few weeks.


One of the more fascinating things I’ve learned isn’t on any of my syllabi either. Human Beings, often unintentionally, transcribe themselves onto everything around them. In decisions and judgments of others, for example, the more sensitive of us will ‘put ourselves in the other person’s shoes’, forgetting that we could never possibly dream of imitating or understanding the other person completely.

What do I mean by this? Well, think about it.

Each person has a different way of responding to the events they’ve experienced. So even if you could understand past events in the lives of other people, applying your personality and decisions to this wouldn’t help you understand them per say. It would help you, however, know what you would do in those situations.

Also, when it comes to understanding other living things, human beings apply their own mind processes to their actions. In Anthropology we were examining birds and trying to discern whether their communication system was a language or not. So we looked at Mockingbirds.

Mockingbirds, in case you didn’t know, are given their name because of their ability to imitate other bird calls. They are born with this ability and, when they hear the song of a robin, for example, they respond by singing the Robin song. This keeps the Robin from attacking it while it’s in the territory.

Now, this Mockingbird isn’t thinking, “I am in Robin territory, I should sing the Robin song–how does that go again?” It is stimulated by the sound of the Robin call and responds immediately–otherwise it would be mobbed.

People, however, have a difficult time understanding this because it’s hard for them to think of anything working differently than they do–especially another living creature. Isn’t that fascinating?


1 Comment

  1. EFoley said,

    September 1, 2012 at 20:42

    That IS interesting! Gadamer says that it is our prejudice and lack of being able to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes that is the necessary precursor to understanding. This doesn’t mean that prejudice and the impossibility of wearing other’s shoes leads to understanding–often it leads only to prejudice and an inability to understand–but Gadamer says that without it we can’t/won’t come to a point of recognizing that we are dealing with an other to whom we must give the gift of understanding we earn together.

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