accepting criticism,  how do we know what we know is true

just keep reading, just keep reading

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My brain itches right now, with this sense that new ideas are waiting to burst forth. I don’t know yet where they will take me but I can see the seeds.

I’ve been rereading parts of Don Quixote in preparation to speak about it in a class I’m teaching. At the same time, I’m reading the book Paranoia and Modernity: Cervantes to Rousseau by John Farrell. Among other things the book talks about the ways in which Don Quixote appeals to the possibility of enchanters, both helpful and malevolent to explain the disconnect between his understanding of reality and reality itself.

My own mind seasons this topic with examples of antivaxxer arguments as taken from facebook. I’m fascinated with the antivaxxer movement not just because at one point I believed vaccines could be dangerous, but because it seems as good an example as any of how groups of people live with totally different understandings of reality. There are people who cry at the thought that their child might marry someone who is vaccinated, for fear of what damage the residual effect of the vaccines might do to the person’s hypothetical grandchildren. Vaccines are for most of us a minor inconvenience and a taken for granted aspect of modern health care, but for some it is a total nightmare. It is a mountain made out of a molehill, if not also a giant made out of a windmill?

How did people go from a time when Don Quixote was read as satire, with Quixote understood to be the fool, to the point where Quixote is a hero? In the musical Man of La Mancha he is fighting against the insanity of the world, bringing dignity and chivalry to the underdogs of society. What happened to our ability to recognize his foolishness as foolishness – a construction of his own brain brought about by reading to many blogs, err, umm, novels of chivalry?

I feel this deep hunger right now, to throw myself into studying the ideas of the classics. How do we find our way out of the fishbowls, the fantasies and world views we take for granted? My bookshelves and library records can attest that I am well-read and yet there are times like now where I feel so ignorant. bookshelf

I’ve come across this great quote from Francis Bacon, and I don’t know enough about the context to really understand it. Does it reflect what I feel right now, this sense of ignorance about everything, this deep desire to learn more?

For my own part at least, in obedience to the everlasting love of truth, I have committed myself to the uncertainties and difficulties and solitudes of the ways and, relying on the divine assistance, have upheld my mind both against the shocks and embattled ranks of opinion, and against my own private and inward hesitations and scruples, and against the fogs and clouds of nature, and the phantoms flitting about on every side, in the hope of providing at last for the present and future generations guidance more faithful and secure. Wherein if I have made any progress, the way has been opened to me by no other means than the true and legitimate humiliation of the human spirit.

What did Bacon mean by the “true and legitimate humiliation of the human spirit”? I read it an interpret it as the sense of insignifiance I feel when I come face to face with how little I know about anything, but it is very possible Bacon meant something totally different.

I have spent the last few years telling myself I was reading all I can about the 16th to 18th centuries but in truth I have only dabbled. I thirst for more.

I’m an adult but I crave imaginary friends. I want to be able to invite both Francis Bacon and Ralph Waldo Emerson to tea in my mind, to compare their ideas about education. I know that doing so I would be comparing not their ideas exactly but my understanding of their ideas, shaded and colored by my own biases and limits. Still, if that’s the closest I can come, I want to do it. I want to learn everything I can about the great writers.

I participated in a facebook discussion recently about the accuracy of Canadian history curriculum, and at some point someone said she questions whether she has the knowledge to homeschool at all. How do we, as homeschooling parents, wrestle with our own gaps in our education?

For me, I take comfort in the idea that my children’s education does not end when they turn eighteen, but will continue throughout their lives.

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