“Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion… or you shall learn nothing.”
-Thomas H. Huxley
As each day passes, we are exposed more and more to new experiences. These experiences happen before our senses, and we in turn look outwards to them from the knowledge and history of experiences which have passed. In essence, we project our previous experiences onto new experiences.
Likewise, when we process these experiences, they often fall into the familiar ways of thinking that we are accustomed to. We take what we have learned, seen, heard, experienced, and use this to understand the world around us. Sometimes when there is something new, we will in the blanks with the old in an effort to make sense.
This is all perfectly natural.
But the quote by Huxley raises a very interesting point that we should consider: how do we process new experiences? Are we ever truly able to observe things from an objective standpoint? Can we ever remove the glasses and eyes that we form our way of looking at the world?
Huxley proposes that in light of new facts, that we should sit down as a child, who has not had many years of experience reinforcing their world view. In short, we should be open to new facts and new experiences in of themselves. There is much that can be gained by simply stopping for a moment, and allowing ourselves to understand HOW we are looking at a new experience through our previous lenses. Understanding can allow us to pause for a moment before we can begin to open our mind to the new-ness of what is before us.
To truly learn, maybe we have to momentarily forget everything that we know so that we don’t inadvertently fill in holes with our own knowledge, and instead let that new learning fill in those holes by themselves…