Something weird and embarrassing happened to me today. I made the mistake of assuming I was a know it all. Shame on me. Today was the first day of a new semester. Always a fresh start and one of the most exciting times for me. The further along I get in my degree the more exciting and fascinating the course work becomes.
I’m curious. Almost too curious. If I wasn’t I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing or be anywhere near where I am. I’d like to think i’m not conceited. But I admit sometimes I can be and it’s one of my main flaws.
Last semester I took a course solely in Buddhism. It was amazing. One of my favorite courses thus far. But I signed up for a lower level course, “intro to eastern religion”. Most of my classmates are not in the major and probably have never taken more than one other religious studies course before. When we went around the room to introduce ourselves and were asked why we took this class I said some things and concluded with “and hopefully learn something I dont already know”. I immediately saw the silent horror on my professors face when I sat down.
What was wrong with me? Why did I say that? Of course there are things I dont already know. Thats why i’m here, right? If I already knew it all I would be considered a genius. And even geniuses don’t know it ALL. Even my professor a smart man and prominent scholar in that particular field has yet to know it all! I digress, despite my embarrassment and foot in my mouth I carried on with my day. My next class was philosophy of religion. The professor opened with several things but she said one thing that ive been thinking about all day. She said that the biggest inhibitor to learning isn’t stupidity or ignorance but rather thinking you already know.
She was slapping me on the wrist without even knowing it.
Its the reason we dont listen carefully enough to those who refute us. We assume from the very start that we already know what they will say, know why its wrong, and already have a counter argument or two in the arsenal. I’m guilty of this even though I know that it holds me back and goes against what i’m striving towards.
The Socratic Method exists because Socrates, someone who may I add knew quite a lot, operated under the constant assumption that he knew nothing. Instead of proposing a set of facts or even opinions to refute, he chose to formulate everything into questions. It was never “this is how it is.” But “is this how it is?”. He got a lot further with the latter than with the former. What a guy. There’s no limit to what we can learn. As soon as I shove my ego out of the way I can constantly remind myself that in regards to knowing what there is to know, I know essentially nothing.
I resolve to make that my first and last thought as I proceed this semester. *sigh*