*(Bilde er fra BioDiveristy Heritage Library. Common Domain.)
We think we know things.
The Greek philosopher Socrates said that he was wiser than everyone else because he knew that he did not know.
Learning new information means using what is called «a beginner’s mind». You must assume you know nothing for the time it takes to actually open yourself to new information. Only upon reflection – when we apply and question new knowledge and old knowledge together can we have meaningful opinions and create new theories. This helps you keep what is called a growth mind-set.
When the Englishman George Shaw first wrote about the duck-billed platypus, scientists thought it was a hoax. After all we know that the animal kingdom is made up of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, etc. What is this hairy thing that lays eggs? It can’t be real.
We forget that the way we categorize things like animals or personalities (introvert/extrovert) are only frameworks for discussion. They are not rules that nature itself follows. When we fall into a pattern of looking at the world from one point of view, we miss things. Like platypuses. And ourselves.
The same is true when we discuss the arts. Or history itself. When, for example, we talk about what Renaissance artists did, it does not mean that every artist who lived during the Renaissance followed the rules exactly. The «rules» are nearly always generalizations made by people looking backward at a small selection representing the whole.
And the point of view of those people writing the history matters! It is therefore important that we are open to questioning what we think we know about history.
For example, we have evidence that the myth that Greek Statues were unpainted is based on a lie – consciously promoted by man in the 1700s. Does knowing this make you wonder about our ideas of «beauty» in the West?
Can any of our long-held cultural beliefs be changed by including new information and new perspectives?
Some of you might remember reading about Lysistrata last year, a comedy from ancient Greece. The plot describes women who withhold sex from men until they agree to stop the war. We see this often today as an anti-war play. But that is a reading from our point of view, based on our cultural norms. But the educated audience in ancient Greece, believed that love between two men was more noble than love between a man and a woman. It also valued a strong military and skilled warriors. Knowing this, can we think that perhaps the play was funny to the Greeks for an entirely different reason than we find it funny?
You will also discover that sometimes people who live long lives leave behind a lot of information, and they often change perspectives themselves: contradict themselves. (A good example is Bertolt Brecht.) This is human nature. We are literally making up stories to string together the facts. These stories are theories. And sometimes theories need to change.
One trick here is to keep an open mind, without dismissing new information that doesn’t fit what you think you knew before. The other trick is to think critically about new information – in light of the larger framework of knowledge.
Children learn by seeing a model and reproducing it. At some point we go beyond learning to reproduce what has come before – and we can use mentors, teachers and guides to help us stay open, and stay aware/critical of our own biases and «rules».
It is uncomfortable to find yourself in a place of not knowing. The poet Keats called this ability to accept uncertainty negative capability. But he saw it as an extremely interesting place to be – and an important source of creativity and wisdom!
Look at these theories in theater history as a conversation that has been going on for years – for centuries!
Enter into the discussion with humility. You are very welcome to bring your point of view, and I am excited to hear what you have to say.
Historie har alltid flere perspektiver!
og ny informasjon som her med Shakespeare sin Henry VIII.