As much as you learn in school I believe that life teaches you more. The trick is being open to it – being receptive. I find myself listening a lot here – fifth-wheel syndrome, if you will – with agreement and disagreement, depending on the need.
There are good things being taught here, but there are also the follies of youth – the incompleteness of cognition. Radical (in some cases) beliefs born of partial education.
Today was a case in point. The discussion revolved around our values – “who we are”. Not cogito ergo sum, but what we believe and why. One student was of the belief – if I understood correctly – that ‘we are what we do’; a position that was apparently already in contradiction of the ‘you are what you have’ beliefs espoused by her parents – see the Book of Possessions, Chapter One, Verse One. Her way out of that very shallow, ignoble, materialist viewpoint was noble, but it was restricting.
I appreciated what she was saying, though, and tried to reinforce it with the notion that we’re far more than what we have – that what we possess is only borrowed and temporary at that. I tried to aver that what we think we own is incidental at best, irrelevant at worst.
It’s true: some people do define themselves by what they have, but I believe they are misguided, and that even a small amount of contemplation in or before their frail dotage will inevitably bring them to that conclusion.
I tried to impart something that I have learned: that we are a product in fact of everything. Everything we have felt, everything we have heard or seen, everything we have learned, been taught, inferred or extrapolated. Every smell we’ve ever noticed has influenced our thinking – possibly for a very long time – the music we have decided to love, the writing we enjoy, the poetry we’ve written or read, the channels we watch, the things that make us sing and those that make us cry. Our angst-givers, our joy-bringers, our anger-makers. Contemplations, reactions, deliberations – all – ALL – serve as the backdrop to what we believe, how we feel, decisions we make, how we react to stimuli, what gives us pain or joy, and so – who we are.
I will readily grant you: age has taken its toll on my thinking. The lustre is off the old diamond, the youthful idealism is all gone and university’s not changing that one bit – not because I’m incapable of changing but because it’s not showing me anything that suggests I should change. If anything, I’m bringing my experience to bear on discussions that might otherwise proceed simplistically. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, just that it provides perspective and that there’s a depth in my perception that does not – cannot – exist for young people. I’ve seen more and heard more than any of them, and this fact alone makes my beliefs and values different. Not right or wrong, just different.
Because we are all a product of our experiences.