The Art of Unlearning: How Do We Know What’s False?

In his book Walden, Henry David Thoreau writes, “Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.” Considering that I love this season’s off-the-shoulder tops and chokers as much as I now cringe to think of the overalls and bucket hats I embraced in the ‘90s, I’d consider this statement true.

Fashion aside, however, I also believe Thoreau’s words are applicable to culture at large. How simple it is, for example, to laugh at the old, outdated thinking of our parents while being swept up in our own generation’s new, “enlightened” ideas. In light of the never-ending stream of persuasive PSAs and subtle advertisements we see in the media, it’s not hard to imagine our culture is more progressive and forward-thinking than ever.

Yet, as the old adage goes, “there is nothing new under the sun.”The circumstances of the world shift and change, but truth alone remains. With this in mind, how often do we stop and examine how enlightened our culture, in fact, is? Or question to what degree we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned to conform to its thinking?

With this in mind, how often do we stop and examine how enlightened our culture, in fact, is?

After all, there are several blatant lies the world tells us — such as what we’re told happiness looks like, or how to pursue “perfect” bodies. If we want to live according to truth rather than the passing trends of the times, then we need to unlearn much of the “wisdom” the world can offer.

How do we do this? We can begin with a bit of tried and true introspection. Taking time to contemplate our beliefs in quiet allows us space to connect to our most authentic selves and be reminded of natural truths.

We can also deepen our understanding of the world’s realities in the midst of our regular routines – beginning with our interactions. Perhaps there’s a coworker we often disagree with or a friend whose opinions differ from ours. If we listen to them with open minds, our beliefs will be challenged and we’ll be able to gain new, and perhaps truer, perspectives.

In essence, we must be willing to never place an idea past the realm of doubt. None of us have all the answers. The older we get, the more we learn about ourselves and the world around us. Let us hope that as we grow, our beliefs and behavior will conform more and more to truth than to trends, keeping in mind the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Let us unlearn our wisdom of the world…and learn that truth alone makes rich and great.”


This article was originally published on Darling
Images via Aysegül Karatekin

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