Castle Rock Institute Blog
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Improvising Knowledge

"Tell people something they know already, and they will thank you for it. Tell them something new, and they will hate you for it."

Environmentalist, philosopher, writer, George Monbiot has this quote as a tagline to his blog. It's the kind of quote that, while perhaps overstated ('hate' might be an extreme generalization), still rings true. For me, the quote describes a common critically flawed attitude toward learning. To reject/ignore/abuse, without consideration, what one doesn't know is an incredibly misguided habit. While unfortunately common, that sort of inflexibility, intolerance, and narrowness leads, it seems to me, along a path of suspicion, fear, struggle and anger, because the world will provide a constant supply of anomalies, new unexpected experiences, and alternative points of view.

The quote made me think that perhaps an attitude of improvisation would be better, an approach to the diversity of life that inspires creativity rather than stonewalling, that encourages exploration of evolved meaning rather than entrenchment. To improvise is to recognize structure and rules, but to invent and modify using newly acquired perspectives and insights. It's not completely predetermined nor completely chaotic or free-form. It's between these two extremes.

Perhaps we should improvise when faced with differing positions, new knowledge, and alternative assumptions. Instead of hating what's different, we might try to find harmonies, complements, and other embellishments.

Put differently, perhaps we can approach all of our experiences as opportunities to learn.
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