Unlearning

unlearn
"Memes do not manufacture memories but convictions."

Given the difficulties learning brings, I do not wonder why I seem to hold tenaciously to whatever I've managed to absorb. Letting go and letting something new come in feels like an exercise in unflushing a troublesome toilet. Once that shit's sorted and gone, I won't ever want to reexamine it. My attitude stems not from sloth but prudence. If learning's risky, unlearning might well raise merely risky to some obscene exponent of itself. I've seen what I've seen and cannot blithely ever unsee it. My initial impression, which sunk deeply into bedrock, does not seem to simply wash away with a light bleach solution. I've got what I've got.

Advertisers rely upon this understandable reticence to engage in unlearning. They project memorable impressions which they know you won't be able to easily, if ever, shake.
They seduce one into a certain powerful sort of passive learning that's remarkably sticky. That first impression likely lives longest. Anyone wishing to over-ride that imbedded impression plays catch-up ball, maybe forever. Avis played up their disadvantage by proudly proclaiming their number two status. Many attempt to diminish their competitors' lasting first impressions, the equivalent of storming a well-defended hilltop. Those the competitor wishes to convince already love the object the rebuttal scorns. The Competition finds itself in the position of criticizing their target customer's family, so close are the ties anchored by those sticky first impressions.

The unscrupulous understand this principle better than decent people ever will. Despotisms fuel themselves on streams of fresh first impressions which are next to impossible to counter. Once a voter gets convinced that so-and-so represents evil, they're unlikely to ever unlearn their conviction. It does not matter how little truth stands behind any accusation. What seems to matter is the stickiness of that first impression.

Unlearning might best represent a kind of death, with the classic four stages well-represented. Expect Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Acceptance to each present themselves in turn. Denial, in this model, represents the first stage of Acceptance, separated from Acceptance only by Anger and Bargaining, neither of which come without cost. Unlearning seems to unavoidably involve Denial, the more vehement, perhaps the more useful. Jesus is said to have said that he came not to rebut scripture but to more authentically represent it, thereby sidestepping the likely considerable Denial and deflection any rebuttal encourages. Those who argue most passionately against might be fighting the fiercest battle against their own waning faith. Acceptance that Denial might well prove to be the first stage of eventual Acceptance encourages a more generous consideration, and perhaps enables dialogue in the first place. The sticky first (and lasting) impression almost always seems impenetrable at first.

I intellectually acknowledge the need for me to unlearn without very smoothly ever physically embracing that need. I fume sometimes over the inconveniencing necessity of changing some belief. I fume without recognizing at first that I'm embodying the second stage of acceptance, the second stage of unlearning: Anger. I should recognize that I'm only tuckering myself out with my raging. Once tired enough, I might begin bargaining myself out of the dilemma, entering the stage right before acceptance. I might not even notice when unlearning kicks in. Later, I might catch on that I'm no longer angry and no longer negotiating. What follows might well indicate that Unlearning has occurred without ever making a sticky impression, first, last, or otherwise.

Unlearning seems stickier than even sticky first impressions. It might not feel so satisfying to the sugar sensing taste buds, but favors the savory palate instead. It often brings a knowing transcending conviction, more akin to understanding than knowledge ever manages to become. Perspective sets up shop near wherever the unlearned takes root. Circumspection follows closely behind. A wisdom might eventually choose to settle there.

We seem to live in a world fueled by passions, the residue of serial encounters with seductive and sticky first impressions. Social Media seems about 132% sticky first impressions, with even the mundane presented in meme form. Memes do not manufacture memories but convictions. Memes do not really sum to knowledge but hearsay, admissible as evidence only in kangaroo courts, but shelved as certainty in the internal grand library of learned experience with little regard for the source. I suspect that I walk around zombie-like dragging a one-wheeled wagon overflowing with sticky first impressions in near desperate need of unlearning. I'm probably working through a huge backlog.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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