Friday 30 September 2011

Can You Stand Out In A Crowd

I believe that each and every child born is perfectly in tune with the world and universe around them. It is indeed unfortunate that none of us are born with the ability to decipher that world or universe.

We just don’t have the tools that we need. It would be like asking someone to paint a picture of a horse when they don’t have the paints, paintbrushes or even know what you mean when you say horse. I had an English teacher in high school that gave us a challenge. We were not to ask any questions or talk to each other under penalty of detention. She then wrote on the board “Describe a tree in as much detail as possible”. We couldn’t ask for clarification, and I for one had spent more than my fair share of time in detention, so I just knuckled down and set to work.

The tree that I described was a perfectly shaped maple tree. It was the tree at my grandmother’s cottage and I spent many hours climbing, swinging and even lying on its branches. It must have been ten feet in diameter and about a hundred feet high. I’m guessing there, but if I had paid attention in trigonometry class I would have been able to figure out the height using the Pythagorean Theorem. I think that’s right. It had big beautiful leaves and it was the home to birds, chipmunks, assorted bugs and several young boys. In a word, it was paradise with roots.

When everyone had finished, she collected the papers and started reading them at random. One person described their tree as a large pine tree. Someone else felt that the tree was a beautiful sun dappled birch tree, the kind that our indigenous peoples would make their canoes of. One idiot described a shoe tree. He got a detention for being an idiot I suppose. A good friend of mine described a fully decorated Christmas tree. One fellow went into great detail about an oak tree dressed in fall colours. Well, you get the idea. There were as many descriptions of trees as there were students in the class. The point of the lesson is that even our basic understandings of the world are at odds with each other. It is important to be as clear as possible in our interpersonal relationships.

Now, by the time we think we have the correct tools to understand the world we are so far apart it is a miracle that we can even communicate. I think that in the last century or so with our technological developments we are getting closer to understanding each other. We learn what a tree looks like from Sesame Street. We are all shown what blue, red and yellow look like. We are shown pictures of lakes, rivers, streams, fields and mountains so that we all have the same basic understanding. I don’t think this is a good thing, but in order for the billions to live in what passes as peaceful co-existence, it is probably a necessary thing.

Will we ever have another Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Newton, Einstein or Confucius? I hope so, but if we all have the same definitions it will be much more difficult. Hell, it will be pretty hard to stand out in a crowd that is this large.  



  1. I wonder if I can read this comment

  2. vending machine guy1 October 2011 at 17:11

    Pretty deep stuff, buddy!

  3. We did get Gates recently.

  4. I think that Mr. Gates has changed the world for the better, by giving us the tools to become better people.

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