My Constitution of Writes
We live in a fascinating part of history. I often wonder what our time will look like to future generations. After thousands of years of practice, it’s astounding we haven’t mastered civilization. Sure, we’ve made progress; we don’t run around in loin cloths grunting and beating each other with clubs to get ahead. Not literally anyway. But it’s mystifying how we’re still so far from living truly civilized lives. What’s more astounding is how unconcerned we seem about teaching our children how to live civilized lives.
Thought-provoking discussion among humans is rare these days. Unless the other person is a long-standing member of our inner circle, natural conversation is uncomfortable. But it shouldn’t be! Human life is meant to be interactive, so why, in the 21st century, is human interaction so challenging?
We’re in a bizarre transitional phase of humanity. We once used our bodies for travel and our minds for learning. In the future, we’ll surely use technology for both. Right now, we’re leaving our bodies and minds behind and learning to depend on technology. We’re not there yet, but we’re coming in hot. I believe we’ll experience an intense crash landing.
Through this transition, the things that make us human are being sucked out of us, individually and as a species. For example, we don’t use our legs to get us from point A to B anymore–we use cars. That’s all right because with the extra time this advancement allows us, we can squeeze in some exercise to make sure our bodies still function properly. Thus, we replaced travel with exercise. But when we realized we could survive without exercise, no matter how sluggishly, we replaced exercise, and the remaining free time vehicle transportation provides, with other things, particularly entertainment.
A less obvious advancement I consider far more significant, is recorded knowledge. Human beings began writing to record what they learned and keep a record of our history. We’ve come a long way since drawing on cave walls, with papyri then books, and now vast libraries of knowledge right in our pockets. There’s almost nothing we can’t “learn” in a matter of seconds. When used in a healthy way, recorded knowledge is an amazing tool. But I don’t think we’ve used it in a healthy way. Not for a long time anyway.
Before access to recorded knowledge became commonplace, human beings had to use their minds to learn, for which they needed a special ability that has become so scarce in our day, our humanity is starving from the lack of mental nutrition it afforded our ancestors. If we wish to preserve our humanity, reacquiring this ability is the key.
So what is this special ability?
Let me explain.
All scientific advancements began because humans observed the world around them. That’s how questions were once born and answered. Before the widespread recording of knowledge, a person couldn’t simply “look up” the answers to their questions, relying on someone else to provide the information they sought. Instead, they had to look up at the sky, or down at the Earth, or around at the world’s happenings. They had to observe life. They had to consider their observations, study out with their minds what those observations meant, and form conclusions based on reality.
Can you imagine a university course today where students are required to actually observe the world in order to form an opinion for a paper?
College, and all institutionalized learning, has become a tedious game of memorizing things other humans observed and regurgitating them like mental vomit onto tests and term papers. Even the most daunting words on the most complex medical vocabulary list are mere labels a human in our history made up for the purpose of identification. The words don’t change the thing they identify; they merely facilitate universal recognition.
Nobody really learns anything in school anymore. In elementary school, I had a teacher who told the class, “While blood is red outside the body, inside it’s purple.” I thought that was neat. But I didn’t learn it for myself; I heard it, and remembered it, with only her words as proof. Later in life, I heard from another source that blood actually is red inside the body and we were all taught wrong. I couldn’t agree or disagree on either occasion because I hadn’t learned the truth for myself. In both instances, I had to take another person’s word for it.
There’s a world of difference between inputing information from an outside source whether it be a book, an online article, a seminar, or a math professor, and processing information through observation, consideration, mental testing, and forming a well-developed, logical conclusion.
I suppose you can call it “learning” to memorize the findings of other humans. After all, that form of information gathering can be a valuable practice. But that kind of learning is completely different from the learning done through natural, raw thinking. Our brains need a workout through stimulation and practice just like the other parts of our bodies. Unfortunately, we no longer think the way we’re meant to because we’re no longer forced to observe in order to acquire knowledge. Instead we turn to the recorded knowledge of others. Shockingly, we tend to accept whatever they’ve written as truth without ever questioning.
Isn’t is weird how little we question anything anymore? Other than each others’ motives, of course.
Without observation, our humanity is lost.
A Woman’s Writes is where I discuss my observations. Don’t expect my writings to be tainted with citations; I don’t rely on anyone else to express my thoughts for me. You shouldn’t either. Not here. If you’re willing to set aside society’s current need to prove others wrong with links to other people’s mental work, come Write in! Join me for some honest conversation. We’re all thirsting for it.