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Unlearning

I aggressive-compulsively flip from catty radio channel to catty radio channel every morning in my car. Brave passengers would challenge that this happens any time I drive, but considering I’m usually doing those people a favour by driving them, their argument is rendered invalid. In full honesty, it’s mostly a morning thing: Setting the appropriate tone for my day is important, so this annoying habit flourishes unbridled between 7:45 and 8:15am.

My “right” to be annoying about changing channels is questionable – how important could setting my “day tone” really be when I refuse to just listen to my iPod (because I don’t listen to my iPhone) or the CBC? Leaving my attitude up to chance is rather risky, and the odds get worse as the chances that something of quality will pop up on one of my car’s preset stations are slim. But what can I say, I live on edge.

My obsessive desire to land on the right song in the right moment meant I heard “and [dah-non] has come under fire…” as I casually clicked past before frantically clicking back. Where in the world is Dah-non? I thought with a knot in my stomach and a pang in my head. A foreign attack reported in prime listening hours… This must be huge.

Well I have one word for you, and it’s yogurt. Excuse me for being “cultured” and thinking Danone was a Kazakhstani city.

Next.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about thinking – the kind where you condescendingly analyze that voice in your head that condescendingly analyzes everything else. I’m not a judgmental person, truly. But my mind is on autopilot when it comes to interpreting other’s behaviours, as they relate to me.

This thinking-about-thinking exercise came about after every pre-set radio channel decided to air ads simultaneously. Either a regional marketing conspiracy, a sign from God or a frustrating coincidence – take your pick. Whatever it was, I started to break down the things I’d been told in an introductory seminar the previous night:

The motivation behind another person’s any given action? No way of actually knowing it.

We can make informed guesses, and maybe a majority of the time, they’ll be generally accurate, especially if you’re condescendingly analyzing somebody you know. But at the end of the day, you can’t know why somebody did something the way you can know that two apples plus two oranges will leave you with… two apples and two oranges. And if you claim otherwise, the word you’re looking for is trust. Which is faith. Which is not logic.

A few big ideas on why it’s probably true that we simply cannot know – difference, statistics and moral hazard. We’re all human, but we’re also all different – or my personal favourite: we’re all unique, but no one is that unique. Statistically, there will always be doubt, and there will always be risk. No matter how informed you are about anything, there’s going to be that chance that you are, however informedly, wrong. Morally, people do things and promise things with no intention of committing to them. We’re all guilty of this one. And because there’s no mental transparency, not even professional micro-expression reading can avoid mathematics.

This “moral hazard” thing is applied to a range of concepts, most notably economics, which I’ve been studying a lot of. 

In September, I will re-attempt Microeconomics 101, although I think I’m past the point of no return: Too many courses across many other disciplines has created a cocktail of cognitive dissonance in my head. I’m going backwards, straining to accept the rudimentary principles that were intended to serve as a starting point. Now, they seem more like sweeping statements, so broad that while they may largely be right, I already know they’re far from whole.

The whole concept of having to “unlearn” something in order to “relearn” something else is an interesting one. I’m tempted to say that I think “unlearning” is more like learning to recognize beliefs you hold as beliefs you hold, before going on to challenge them. Unlearning doesn’t quite fit with “forgetting.” But if unlearning always precedes relearning; isn’t relearning to unlearn unlearning? To eschew critical analysis only to adopt a different set of beliefs?

I’ve written this post over the course of two days. I did not eat yogurt this morning; I had potato salad. With a yogurt-based dressing, but that’s okay. I’m not one for extremes. 

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