Pitfalls of vicarious learning – Some of life is to be lived and experienced

By: Heero Yuy

pitfall

Emotions are fundamental motivators for production. Salsa singer and writer Marc Anthony once said in an interview that he writes music whether he is happy or depressed. Likewise, this post originates from anger but invokes thought that has some resounding truth.

Once upon a time I had a conversation with two wise sages. They were trying very hard to impose their seniority and experience in the Corporate world to justify their valuation of my worth to Corporate america. As wise as these sages may be, they were not experienced in human resources, finance, or career coaching or counseling. As we moved from the abstract of their thesis to full bodies of arguments where I interrupted and asked a few questions. You see, in my world, the world of experience in the military, we did different things and those things also had different functions and values. I asked the following question:

  • Did you ever land a helicopter on a moving ship pitching and rolling with adverse winds, foggy conditions, and cloudy skies with low visibility?
  • Have you ever dove under the water to simulate the attacking force trying to defeat and disable a ship?
  • Lead men into combat scenarios and man damage control stations to be able to fight fires to save the lives of everyone at work?
  • Have the lives of other men and women placed in your hands whom entrusted their safety and well being to your ever watchful eyes and clear guidance to land a helicopter in adverse conditions as mentioned above?
  • Star gazed in the middle of the Ocean under a clear sky with zero light pollution except that of the ship you are on?
  • Saw the golden sunrise and the ocean turn orange under the purple sky with sunset everyday?
  • Fish for Tuna at the fantail of the ship on a low speed cruise?
  • Etc

To all these questions were of course met with a resounding response of “No.” To this I say “You of little experience regardless of your own perceived wisdom.” Everyone reading this vicariously considered in their imaginations what those experiences above might have felt like and then a luck few were with me through those experiences know FROM their OWN experience how that FEELS like themselves. The experiences of the two sages were undoubtedly valid for their own perception of the Corporate world. They do not possess the aptitude, without experiencing it themselves, to fully valuate the entirety of my experience based on their vicarious understandings. I know from experience, they know from a story produced by experience. Life on the Oceans is a poetic and surreal experience that, if survived, can greatly broaden the spectrum of emotional and intellectual capacity of a human being beyond measure (at least much more so than a regular 9-5 office/monitor/keyboard+mouse routine). We lived on the limit.

Can you truly learn and understand everything from reading alone?

My previous article on Experiences talks about reading and learning from others. While this establishes a good baseline to form experiences of your own while avoiding a lot of pitfalls that were previously identified, it does not excuse a person from living and experiences things for themselves! Experimental vs theoretical science and reality is the ultimate litmus test (proof is in the pudding).

For if anything is written, it had to have been experienced or done first by someone in order to start the learning process.*

*Note: Assuming that the knowledge is genuine and not meant to deceive or mislead the audience.

Think about the statement above for a moment. Someone had to have taught Lao Tzu in order for him to teach others. That someone learned it from someone who did it themselves to be able to teach it in the first place. Therefore, all wisdom originates from an original experience or a group of experiences. Experience are the bricks used by philosopher’s mortar to conceptualize their theories.

No matter how wise a person may seem to be, we are all limited by time and our respective limited experiences. Since time doesn’t work for us but against, no one person can be infinitely wise. Our only hope is that the collective whole can in time grow to be ever more wise so as to avoid the pitfalls of the past treading into the intrepid unknown and hopeful future.