Absorbing things you don’t want to understand
Anonymous – CONTRIBUTOR
There’s no such thing as a perfect conversation. Even people who read from a script for a living have never experienced a flawless exchange. Something will always go wrong, some word or intonation will always anger or bore or be misunderstood by the other party. This has always annoyed me. Deeply, in fact. Early this week, however, I think I finally understood how to come to terms with it.
I think we have all seen him, the man on the corner:
“SAVE HUMANITY, CLOSE UNIVERSITY.”
I pass him almost every day on the way to class. I never stop, citing terrible excuses to myself: “Class in ten minutes,” “everyone is looking,” “oh, bloody hell, no.” This particular day, though, I was curious.
Standing at the light, I waved and pointed, asking: “Why? That seems a bit extreme.”
He doesn’t answer me, but he pulls out a battered copy of the Bible. I immediately seized up. I have had a less-than-positive relationship with religion since I was but a wee lass, and he was essentially waving a nightmare in my face. Eventually, though, what he was trying to say filtered through and I listened as he explained his view: that education was opening pathways to let the devil in. I smiled, nodded, shook his hand, and then turned and walked away.
As I walked away, my biology-soaked brain gradually worked through what had just happened. I hadn’t gotten angry. I hadn’t pressed my opinion. I’d listened — and then I left. Which, I finally understood, is so incredibly relevant. This is university. We are going to come across themes, thoughts, ideas, theories, facts, and foibles we have no context for. We cannot get annoyed at it all, as satisfying and self-congratulatory as that may be. In comparison, iIt is far healthier to acknowledge these ideas exist and use the concepts and techniques we learn in school to analyze them. Everything is open to us, and we are kids in the sandbox with a full bucket of toys.