What is the biggest lesson that life has taught you?
“I am still learning” – Michelangelo
This is what Michelangelo said at the ripe age of 87. He was a sculptor and intellectual of unparalleled excellence. Living is experiencing and every experience influences one in some way. Every experience should be scrutinized with the best reason, and be learned from. This in itself is a life lesson; to ‘never stop learning’, but if I have to mention one lesson as ‘life lesson’ it would be:
“Learn, unlearn and relearn”.
A person is always the victim of cultural conditioning, stigmas, convictions and norms. We grow into those stigmas and there is rare chance of breaking out of them and not getting fixated on them. This has had some serious psychological repercussions. Men have murdered, abused, tortured, mutilated men over these stigmas, norms and conditionings; because they were never introduced to the opposite so they never developed an appetite for another perspective, they grew radical and aggressive with age over the ideas they believed were right. Ignorance never bodes well with power. Therefore, the need for unlearning is essential. One puissant means for unlearning is reading.
The need for reading can never be overstated, reading is an immensely fruitful activity. These two words have been the guiding principle of my life. I got into the habit of reading quite early on, and that journey and its fecundity can’t be expressed amply. A reader lives several lives, one learns a lot by reading. It is essential, they are uniquely portable, and one of the most ancient means of learning.
Human progress has been stalled because crowds were unable to collectively evolve, radical and wrongful rectitude was inveterate. Collective progress is impossible without individual progress. It is individuals that accumulate into society and until and unless everybody is not eager to learn, moderation is impossible.
Human history is a catalog of change and cognitive evolution. If it weren’t for this moderation, this much progress was impossible and we would have been living in a society riddled with ancient traditions, superstitions, and ideas.
Man is an emotional being, and they associate strong feelings with their ideas and their convictions. Opposing facts instigate immediate anxiety and a strong resentment for the opposing thought. Any dissenting voice is retaliated and in neurological terms, it is perceived by the brain similar to that of physical pain.
The obvious solution is spending time learning different cultures and ideas to make allowance for the new. Since it is practically impossible to explore every culture for everyone, we have to utilize other mediums available to us that will make us explore different cultures, different perspectives and question our preconceived notions. In modern times we have several means to satisfy that need, documentaries, books, scriptures, media of a different kind.
We have enough material at our disposal, it is a matter of determination and resolution now. It requires a considerable amount of wisdom and education to realize that what we know cannot be infallible. We have to have a considerable degree of detachment from the ideas, and nourishing ideals in any form, whether it be ideas, or persons lead to dogma. We should rather devote ourselves to reason and truth, we should stay true to them instead. Staying in a constant state of flux, venturing and learning, and in the process unlearning old conventional thought, unlearning poorly founded ideas.
This axiom has very wide implications, ranging from the collective human level to the individual level, from the reasoning of a man to emotional vulnerabilities.
Life is immensely random, and a great many things happen. Those happenings are inevitable, they are beyond human capacity to change. Folly is essentially inevitable as well, but the point of life is not to face life with the identical naivete. To elaborate and make it simple, a tragic loss experienced for the first time shall never evoke a similar response the second time. By that I mean, at the second instance we should have realized that these losses and gains are essential parts of life, and we have survived what we thought would render us incapable, so this shall pass too.
Losses in life make us realize how oafish our previous convictions were, it would be rueful not emotionally mature from our previous experience.
Change is inevitable and the law of nature, everything is in constant flux. We shall board this ship, willingly and not be dragged into like a hem caught in cog inadvertently. When we are born, we are ‘tabular rasa’ meaning, a blank slate; later on, in life, we have to immensely educate ourselves to reach that point. That is what is meant by learning and unlearning and relearning. We have to constantly evaluate our new standpoints to the best of reason and choose progress.
If it were for conventional thought, we would still be believing in a flat earth and a bunch of other nonsense.
Conscientious stupidity is inconceivable, and cannot be reasoned with. It is a matter of daring to expose oneself to the community of dissenting individuals and books. Rest assured, as Kierkegaard said:
“The truth is a snare: you cannot have it, without being caught. You cannot have the truth in such a way that you catch it, but only in such a way that it catches you.”