Friday, May 9, 2014

Everyone's a Teacher

I always bristle a bit when someone implies that I don't have anything to learn from someone else, because of the simple fact that they're different from me, and that they've lead a much different life than mine. The world is a very big place, and I'm a small (in the cosmic sense) and limited person. There's all kinds of stuff that I just don't know, and whenever someone is willing to share some of it with me, I'm all ears. And I'm starting to learn that I should be that way even when my initial impression is that they're full of crap. Because, trolls aside, I'm not important enough for people to put a lot of effort into leading astray. As much as it stings to come away from an interaction with someone feeling like an idiot, sometimes, when someone says that I'm doing it wrong - it's because I'm doing it wrong. And at the very least, I'm doing it differently than the way that they found works for them. And even though I'm not them, and we're all unique, I'm not so alien as to be above doing things that other people have identified as worthwhile.

Sometimes, I think that the most difficult thing to learn in our lives is that we spend our lives learning. I've done some really boneheaded things in my life because I didn't know any better. But now I do. It was a learning experience, just as much as the things that I blundered into (or even meticulously planned) that worked out gloriously. I know things that I should do again, and things that I should never, ever think of repeating. But tomorrow, something is going to happen and my first thought is going to be: "Oh, damn. What the crack do I do now?" And part of me will be upset that, after decade upon decade of gathering knowledge, from the profound to the trivial, into a great big pile, I'll have no idea of what choice I should make. Because it will be a novel situation. To me, anyway. But someone will have already been there. And even if their life up until that point was completely different than mine, they might have a useful insight. And if they offer it, it's my job to take it in good grace, rather than feel put down by it, or ashamed that I hadn't thought of it already.

As people, we are teaching machines. We instruct one another without even thinking about it, even when it's the furthest thing from our minds. Therefore, the opportunities to learn are everywhere. It's only natural for us to take advantage of them.

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