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Pierre-Auguste Renoir:
Madame Pierre Henri Renoir [Blanche-Marie Blanc] (1870)

"We're both still learning, or could be."

The older I become, the more I carry a sense of AlreadyKnowing, and this sensation seems like an awful burden. I could once routinely show up knowing I didn't know, leaning into a learning, open to new experience. Now, I often arrive dreading the upcoming experience, knowing that I will undoubtedly encounter some warmed-over rendition of something we did much better back in the day. Civilization progresses curiously, if it actually advances at all, for each successive generation seems to need to reject or otherwise forget their forebears' learning and reinvent their wheels. The result often seems to be wanting to anyone present when the original was operating. So much the worse for that witness, who can no more resurrect the past than revisit it. He's sentenced to the present disappointment.

Frustration results.
I try to tell the origin story in all its richness. It's received with that Okay, Boomer skepticism as if the interloper understood better than the originator. I see the fundamental need to foster that infamous Buddhist Beginner's Mind, for the experienced mind seems to attract disappointment. AlreadyKnowing while forced to attend an introductory lecture where the lecturer clearly hasn't quite mastered his subject can seem pointless, yet some richness might persist. If I could appreciate rather than judge and perceive what's present rather than missing, I might experience at least some fresh perspective. I never did know everything back when I was learning what I would one day end up AlreadyKnowing.

I question the possession of knowledge. I recognize that this description amounts to an approximation, a metaphor for whatever's really happening. Still, humans behave as if we possess knowing when it might be more accurate to suggest that knowing somehow possesses us. I do often feel possessed by the knowledge I think I've accumulated, even knowing that, with all I know, I rarely feel as if I've ever actually experienced anything even once. From some perspectives, there seems to be no repetition, accumulation, or retention. Impressions continue arriving but seem to get haphazardly stored. I don't possess anything like a body of knowledge or experience but a lapping puddle of it, less organized than even I expected.

I disappoint myself when I feature my sense of AlreadyKnowing. It might be better to claim relative ignorance, owning some knowing without suggesting that I'm anywhere close to finished learning and that my goal was never to arrive at the point where I wouldn't need to learn anymore. I run a persistent deficit and am much less than an attentive learner. I could very likely sit through the same lecture every day for a decade and never retain enough information to ace the resulting exam. That kind of knowing seems alien to me, for I seem to retain little more than senses of things. I can see how primitive another's mastery appears to be without sensing how fragmented my own memory of mine might be. I recollect a gilded age that was probably only brass-coated and wisdom I never possessed until recollecting. I could be more patient with myself as well as my progeny. We're both still learning or could be.

This story seems related to one from my CluelessSummer Series, initially posted in July 2018,

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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