This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.
It is a peculiar experience, the realization that you are fully and holistically engaged–investing the greater part of your time, energy, and potential–in rediscovering old truths. But, I said that! But, I KNEW THAT! The initial flare of indignation as I learn that all the discoveries I’ve just made about my own nature have already been documented. But, this isn’t new?! A sense of humor is often required. Because I already knew that, didn’t I? I only had to learn it again, for myself this time. Come to grips with it, to incorporate it, to come to my own conclusions about it, to make it mine.
The struggles of experiential learning. Moments like these (and a big one I had one last night while reading Rogers) are humbling. They make me question my methods. To entertain the possibility that there are simpler, more expedient ways of acquiring the knowledge I’m looking for. Surely, I could take a class, watch some YouTube videos, even skim a few textbooks. But, I don’t. (I don’t care for textbooks, as a general rule, anyway. Too filtered. Too full of other people’s biases.) And, it occurs to me that the knowledge I’m in search of really isn’t of the kind that’s disseminated that way. I’ve got to get intimate with these ideas. Got to live them. I have to be able to recognize their roots in my own nature and be able to apply them to myself, to experiment and get creative with them, or I will not grow as a result of my learning. If I do not learn experientially, it is only a half-hearted endeavor. If my efforts do not impact how I relate to myself and others, then they are tragically incomplete.
What is most personal is most general. – Carl R. Rogers
I am forced to pause for a moment. Is experiential learning the birthplace of innovation–at least potentially? As we make personal others’ ideas–imbue them with our own style, our own life–do we not invite the possibility of uncovering new dimensions of a more universal experience? Greater points of connection by way of expanding our own uniqueness? And, are the ideas themselves, then, not also changed? Indeed, I find the more I am myself here on The Used Life–that is, the more I articulate thoughts and other inner experiences that I consider “different,” “peculiar,” “odd,” “unique,” even to the degree that they are potentially unrelatable–the more profoundly my words seem to resonate with others. The more feedback I get, the more thoughtful, insightful dialogue that follows. Rogers is right.
An observation: had to find roots in my experience even for the simple notion, The more I am myself, the more I am like everyone else. Do most people do this? Look for a litany of personal proof to validate even age-old bits of wisdom. This seems to be part of the fabric of my makeup. Question everything. Believe what experience tells you. Intuition, also. Itself the voice of an amalgam of experience. Find wisdom with your bare hands.
But, all of this talk of experiential learning makes me think of the importance of style. Of the importance of infusing one’s own unique vision into a conversation about older, universal truths. Style, in this case, is of the utmost importance. For those of us who learn not only by doing, but also by creating, freely playing with style is an indispensable tool. I find myself growing fonder of journal-entry-style posts for this reason. They are reflective of process. They give the impression of being a first recording. A freestyle. The birth of an insight or an intimate view of an internal struggle. It is their indeterminateness, the exercise of poetic judgement, that makes them interesting. I ask myself why all students aren’t encouraged to write like this. I suspect it is a format that’s conducive to learning experientially. To consider new ideas in relation to oneself without the interference of structure or unnecessary formalities. Existentialists say this kind of learning takes courage. I find “courage” to be a curious word to describe it. Yet, I notice, in those moments in which I venture outside of myself in the hopes of toying with the unknown, I experience a faint and ever-so-pleasant sense of daring.