Learning

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-
witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the
simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if
he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of
doubt, what is laid before him.”

― Leo Tolstoy

How true.

The past couple days I’ve had the pleasure of being in the company of some people who make flippant remarks about certain political and religious beliefs, totally unaware of the fact that I belong in both camps. Why they’d assume that I think the same exact way as them, I couldn’t tell you.

Can’t blame them though. I actually did think the same exact way and say, maybe not the same exact things, but very similar things in the not-too-distant past.

The thing that’s really stunning to me is the amount of misinformation lathered into conversations, like having butter with a side of toast. Is there a single accurate piece of information tucked away somewhere in there? Maybe. It’s unclear.

The thing is, there’s a very simple solution to misinformation: gathering information.

Somehow that doesn’t seem to occur to anyone. Or a step before that, the fact that something they read somewhere on the Net may not be 100% accurate doesn’t even register. The New York Times wouldn’t skew things, would they? Oh poppycock.

If any of these people had asked someone who actually held the beliefs they were ridiculing, they might have learned something. If they had asked me, or had even noticed my particular silence. Sure, I could have said something, but I was so taken off guard that I mistrusted my ability to do so kindly.

And I don’t mean to suggest that I was spending time with a particularly uneducated or unenlightened group of people. I do the same thing all the time myself. I ask Oliver why he acted a certain way, but I’m not really asking. I already have an answer constructed for him in my head and at that point, nothing he says can shake my belief that gosh darn it, I’m right.

Stupid.

We can’t find answers to any questions until we’re absolutely willing to hear any answer. Preconceived notions will utterly decimate learning opportunities every time. But if we’re willing to really open our minds and act on whatever information we receive, to revise our opinions and our view of the world, the learning opportunities that become available to us just keep multiplying.

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