Why is it that people never learn?
I came across this sentence in a very popular bestseller titled Shogun written by James Clavell. I read the book about 30 years ago and was interested in learning about Japanese culture – in particular the culture of the Japanese Samurai warriors.
Well I certainly got my money’s worth as far as entertainment and instruction, both, were concerned. Shogun tells the story of a Samurai warlord named Toranaga who is interested in expanding his empire and becoming the Shogun in Japan. Another main character in the book is an English sailor named Blackthorne who is stranded in Japan after his ship is captured in a Japanese port.
I can recommend the book for both entertainment and instruction. I learned many important lessons reading this novel and have read it repeatedly. One lesson I learned I to strive to be accurate in your thinking and notice the details. Dale Carnegie makes the same point in different words in one of his books on public speaking. He urges us to strive for precision and exactness in your speech. You have to notice and master the details in order to be able to do so. As the popular saying goes “God is in the details.”
But Shogun is not for the squeamish or faint hearted. There are scenes of torture, murder and sex aplenty. But at the same time you get to learn how a Japanese Samurai warlord thinks and feels and lives his life. For this reason it is one of the most memorable books I have read.
Now back to the question – “Why is it that people never learn?”
I think that people find it difficult to learn because they do not like to admit to themselves that they were mistaken earlier. It is a blow to the ego to admit to ourselves that we were wrong. Most people find it difficult to admit to themselves that such was the case.
For more on this subject I would refer you to another excellent book, The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle. Towards the end of this book some scientists are called upon to admit to themselves that their scientific theories and conceptions are completely mistaken. They are required to admit to themselves thatwhatever they believed to be true since their childhood is wrong. And the two scientists who are called upon to do this find the experience to be so intense and unpleasant that they die while making the attempt.
So this is why most people find it difficult to learn anything new. To admit to yourself that you were mistaken in your most fundamental and basic opinions may be such an unpleasant experience that there is a threat to your sanity and even your life.
I suppose that is why infants and young children find it easy to learn what they are taught in school and at home. They do not have the baggage of mistaken opinions to deal with and are able to understand what they are taught quite easily.
There is a Zen Buddhist quote which says, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.”
In order to learn anything new we need to cultivate the beginner’s mind or the innocence of a young child. But most people have egos that get in the way and the task is unpleasant and risky.
I’ll end here. Please explore my blog for more articles on Self Help, Spirituality and Politics. If you wish to contact me the link is below.