10 June 2020
Phase I: Experience
By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.–Confucius–
Originally, when sitting down to hurl my thoughts at my computer, this article was intended to be one on language and responsibility. What triggered this was a disagreement with my girlfriend last week about the way in which words are used to construct a case in an argument.
I had claimed, with great authority: “You have a responsibility to ensure the words that come out of your mouth are communicated in a way that the other person can understand”.
But as I begun the process of deconstructing and exploring the above statement, I stumbled upon a much grander realisation.
What began as an analysis of responsibility and language evolved into an evaluation of the wisdom gained from a direct experience.
And that’s when the quote by Confucius struck me, as I began to ponder the third method to learned wisdom and how this played out in my confrontation earlier.
Phase II: Immersion
You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.–Friedrich Nietzsche–
How could this situation have been diffused before it reached a boiling point?
Well, the truth is, to reference Nietzsche, that there was no way to know until I was fully immersed within it.
The right way, correct way or the only way does not exist. It as a matter of an immersive experience that creates our perceptions moving forward.
If you had of asked this same question prior to our disagreement, I would have tried to articulate numerous strategies or ‘relationship hacks’ (what a weird concept) that I had read or heard about. While others may have found success with these, I was yet to develop my own experiences with the situation.
Without immersing myself in the disagreement with my girlfriend (even if it was unintended); without having my own experience, I would not have developed the necessary means to communicate this experience and integrate with my character.
“The Way” is subjective, just as someone’s position in a disagreement is. What one person believes wholeheartedly to be true, can come across as total nonsense to the other.
And how do we decide this?
Through immersion then awareness.
Phase III: Awareness
There’s no coming to consciousness without pain.–Carl Jung–
I’ve chosen to begin this part with the quote from Jung as it describes the sometimes uncomfortable and painful, or as Confucius phrases it, the bitter experience that a coming to consciousness entails.
Consciousness, as Jung describes in this instance may also be interchanged with the word awareness. A coming to consciousness simultaneously occurs with an expanding awareness.
It was clear with my girlfriend, that neither of us wanted to surrender our stance, refusing to acknowledge that there may be a flaw in our case, or that the other person may actually be saying something of value.
And typically, by following this formula, it took an age to arrive at a resolution.
But what if, instead of desperately seeking a vantage point, gnawing away at the other persons ear or bellowing louder, our intention was for the other person to win the argument?
Wouldn’t this provide the necessary perspectives required to develop empathy for one another–to hear what the other is saying, rather than compete for dominance with our own dogma? I credit Tom Bilyeu of the Impact Theory Podcast with this insight.
If only this had been at the forefront of my mind earlier, potentially this whole disagreement could have been avoided and I wouldn’t be discussing the implications of such.
Without immersion, there is no awareness. And without awareness, there is no emergence.
What the great podcasts, books, or stories do is they trigger a thought in us: one that relates somewhat to our own personal understanding of a concept.
As Jonathan Levi, an accelerated learning expert hypothesises: “Anything that we learn, needs to be connected to our experience.”
And once we have made this connection, the process should not stop here as having a context for our understanding is useful only to an extent. We can show off to our friends touting wisdom from the great philosophers and psychoanalysts, and drop names like Confucius or Carl Jung (Ha! Guilty!) into our daily interactions.
However, until we have our own direct experience, these concepts will not become entangled within our own stories and become part of our character, with an authentic awareness.
That is, in Confucius’ words, a mixture of reflection and imitation: reflecting the ground-breaking ideas of one influencer, and then imitating them into our own experiences.
It is when we take it that step further that we have begun to learn wisdom as once we begin to ruminate on an idea or a concept, we are opened to the possibility of manifesting our own direct experience.
Phase IV: Emergence
Almost everything blogs do distorts the news… It only shows us a version of reality that serves their needs.–Ryan Holiday
In Trust Me, I’m Lying, Ryan Holiday outlines internet culture (social media, blogs and memes) as one driven by page-views, click worthy content and distorted news. When what we consume reflects minimal shades of reality, we become distracted from having our own direct experience given that “the world is boring, but the news is exciting”.
How many of us have watched hours of travel blogs on YouTube rather than stepping outside and climbing our own mountain?
We have become masters of reflection and imitation, yet we are none the wiser. There is no supplement for direct experience.
Experience: It is, in the words of Confucius, the bitterest, but provides us with the richest, most polarizing and intense of learnings.
Only then do we emerge transformed. Only then have we learned and acquired authentic wisdom our way: through our own experiences. And only then, have we truly lived.
Because isn’t that what life is about?
Experience by Immersion.
Immersion then Awareness.
Awareness and Emergence.
Emergence into Wisdom.
Let the cycle repeat.