A Very Happy Thought

There is some conventional wisdom that experience brings a certain necessary cynicism. That having seen it all before removes the shine from life. That there are always some disappointments, and they accrete over time into a dull patina between us and our experience of the world.

Me, I think that’s certainly understandable, but not necessary.

And today, I think that our accreted experience, if we understand it correctly, deepens our ability to experience everything that life is. Even the disappointments, the failures, and the painful experiences. Today I think that that hard-earned knowledge can increase the breadth of what we can experience (“infinite in all directions” remember!), and can enrich the experience itself. Sometimes I forget this and slip into that easy cynicism, but not today.

I realize this is somewhat at odds with a naive take on the notion of a “beginner’s mind“, but I’m not trying to refute the underlying idea there. Indeed, I’m agreeing with it–someone with a beginner’s mind can avoid that cynical patina on the lens of their experience, but that’s not the same thing as being ignorant.

The more we know, the more there is that we can know, not just of facts but of people and ideas and relationships between them all. The more we know, the richer an experience knowing can be, so long as we keep our eyes and minds open. Anyone who really understands the notion of a process philosophy–the journey being more important than the destination,the direction of travel more important then the speed, etc–must also understand that the accretion of experience is in itself the point, not something to be feared.

Or, as Alfie put it so well:

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.

What a brilliantly happy thought that is.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada
This work by Chris McLaren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada.