Leaping (Update)

by tamarjacobson

Quote of the day (from CCIE):

All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience. Henry Miller.

While sipping my first cup of coffee this morning, I had to laugh when I read that quote. "Have all my acts been spontaneous and unpremeditated without benefit of experience?" I wondered. Some of the biggest ones. Indeed, some even felt as if there was no choice other than to act! Although in a moment of self criticism, I might call those types of acts "impulsive" rather thanspontaneous. Do any of us have the benefit of experience in decisions we make about the future? After all, the future, by virtue of being in the future, is unknown. And sometimes we become cautious and guarded based on previous experience, when the past has no relation or bearing on future actions anyway. For once there has been a first time, can there ever be that particular first time again? Each time after will be different, unique, connected to that moment in time, related to different sets of people, always within a slightly changing context.

So, I wonder, "What good is experience anyway?"


Some reflections on the subject from my friend Marion this morning:

Your comments about "experience" and the "future" remind me of Magda Gerber, an infant educator, who once said (not a direct quote but pretty close), "we raise children with the knowledge of the past which is absurd since we cannot possibly prepare them for a future which we know nothing about. So if we accept the absurdity of that, is there anything we can give them that is good for their unknown future?" … And the answer (from Magda) is Respectful interactions.

I think we grow and change from all our experiences and they are just that, our experiences. It gets all wonkie when we try to pass our experiences on to others in an effort to save them from uncomfortable moments, making mistakes, or we want them to feel joy, happiness, success from the experiences that gave us those feelings or results.  We get into trouble when we assume our experiences constitute some kind of knowledge base that is useful for informing others of how to act, feel, or respond in their life. I'm remembering the example Magda gives by asking us to think about what happens to a baby who is perhaps sadly experiencing some slice of life in their own way (frustration, upset, sadness, anger) and we swoop down on them and remove, distract, change, or alter the environment based on our experiences thinking it will be better for them. The message we send is their experience isn't as important or valid as the experience we've recreated and now wish them to have. You haven't respected their need to have their own experience, in their own way, at that moment in time. 

It's such a simple concept but we screw this up a lot of the time. I guess my answer to your question would be (from my experiences of course), experience is a personal growth catalyst/change agent that is individually encountered. Depending on the type of experience encountered the benefits seem maximized, or the obstacles minimized, when it occurs without interference or intervention from others (unless of course it is potentially harmful or life threatening). The more we are asked to interpret our experiences through the scripts of others, the less authentic or true to ourselves we become.