When I was in high school I had an English teacher that was a little bit off. We all joked that he was crazy, but really he had just done a lot of drugs and had some weird experiences when he was younger. The majority of his classes would end with him rambling on about how he almost killed a guy while on acid.
One of the lectures that has stuck with me since then was about how we experience things. He tried to start a controversial debate by saying that he had no idea that the Earth was round because he had never seen it from far enough away to know. He said that just because someone else took a picture and made the measurements to see that the Earth was round, he didn’t fully believe it because he would have to take someone else’s word for it.
He went into a few other examples like how he didn’t even know if the sky was blue because he couldn’t see it right then.
This of course started a bit of argument with the students because we all knew that of course the Earth was round and the sky was blue. As high school students, most of us didn’t get the point that we shouldn’t base everything we know about something someone else tells. He really just wanted to get it through our heads that if we really wanted to understand something, we needed to experience it for ourselves.
Now almost ten years later I think I’m really starting to understand what he was talking about. I’ve realized that I spend a pretty big chunk of my life on reddit and reading blogs and other things on the internet. I’ve learned so much from doing that. There are so many things that I feel like I have a complete understanding on, but really I’ve just read about someone else who has done them.
I’m starting to think this is a bad thing. I’m realizing that I’m not experiencing much any more. Most of the time I’m just experiencing text on a page telling me about something. I’m not going to say it’s not interesting though. I’ve learned a ton from everything I’ve read, but I’m definitely not an expert on anything.
For example, I read an AMA about a guy who hiked the Appalachian Trail a while back. From that, I feel like I have a pretty good idea what it would be like to hike the Appalachian trail. I know what gear to get, what kind of food to eat, even how it feels to sit alone in the dark and hear animals outside of your tent. But I haven’t experienced it. I’ve realized that I really have no idea what it would be like.
I’m starting to think that this is a big problem in my life and probably in a lot of other people’s lives. What will happen to us when we’ve learned everything there is to know, but haven’t experienced anything because it’s all been on a computer, the television, or a book? Does knowledge make up for lack of experience?
Is it even healthy to do this?
Imagine what it would be like to have to learn everything in life on your own without a users manual or an AMA or a blog about it. Imagine what it would be like to only live in the moment and not be thinking about anything else.
I know this isn’t possible and I know that there are tons of things to be learned from others. Hey, look at me, I lost a bunch of weight because I went online and read about the paleo diet.
It’s definitely something weird to think about though. Tonight, when you are doing whatever it is you’re doing, realize that this is the first and last time that you will be experiencing that specific situation and you are the only person doing it right there and right then.