I consider myself a lifelong learner, and while I sometimes suffer from a bit of a “learning addiction,” and often reading or watch something only to find nothing new in the experience, there are also times where I realize that the speaker is actually expressing something familiar to me, but they’re expressing it in a way that puts the entire idea in a new light and context. And I’m starting to feel that there’s real value in seeking out those “other ways of expressing the same idea.” I’m starting to suspect that at the end of the day, it’s very difficult to grasp everything the speaker is “saying.”
I feel like I benefit from hearing, experiencing, and generally learning the same thing several times, with a minimum of 3 very different forms, but often 5 or 6 times (who’s to say what the right number is) before I really start understand it. And I think the effect is compounded when very different people explain/express it each time, not because one will express it in a way that’s easier for me to understand, but because each expression functions like a point on an axis on a graph or a line in space, and more points or lines help to more precisely identify the meaning through their overlap.
In some ways it reminds me of a class I took in logic, where one philosopher used the system of “The correct answer is A. B is incorrect. A, by itself, is sufficient. No ‘unknown’ possibilities are correct. Therefore A and A alone is correct.”
In contrast there was another philosopher who argued that “If the question is ‘which is correct, A or B’ then the premise itself is there are only two possibilities, and therefore if you rule out B, you immediately know that the answer is A through process of eilmiantion.” And while this works in very simple situations, few things in the world are so simple, and meaning rarely is.
For example, I think few recognize what it’s really like to drive with someone else in the car until they’ve been both driver and passenger in that situation.
Similarly, one develops new appreciation for how (as children) someone else cooked and cleaned, when we as adults begin doing that work ourselves.
I think the same is true of language and meaning. A person trying to teach me how to meditate told me “Close your eyes. Calm your mind.” But I struggled.
Another person told me “Don’t try,” but I wasn’t sure what to do.
A third person told me”allow your thoughts to drift,” and I found myself caught up in a tangle of different thoughts. The “peace” often associted with meditation seemed as elusive as my understanding of what I was supposed to do.
Then a fourth person told me “It’s like floating on water,” and that clicked. Suddenly the other remarks made sense. These disparate ideas united into different sides of a single 3 dimensional object called “meaning.”
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books on plot, character, structure, and different ways of organizing the various segments and beats so common to storytelling. Much of the time I feel like I’m reviewing something I already understand, but once in a while I feel like I come across a concept, or maybe just a series of words, and even though I’ve read multiple books on the subject, there’s something unique about this person’s words.
It’s not that “this person” expressed themselves more effectively, but rather it’s the combination of all those different phrases, different models.
Granted, itt’s challenging. We have to balance “learning” and “applying/doing.” Many speakers will not use words that are helpful to “us,” and the more we learn, the harder it is to find words that do help, that still add to our comprehension, but once in a while we still find it, and it’s remarkable, feeling that new, expanding understanding.