Walking away from class yesterday, there was a strange conversation:
Mind if I ask you something?
No, go right ahead
I’m trying to keep things together that have come out during the class so I just have to ask—you haven’t ever joined a circus have you?
No, I can’t say that I have.
Sometimes it seems like you’ve done almost everything, so I just wanted to make sure that there was something you hadn’t done or been involved with.
Today, the first thing I read was this:
In our struggle for responsibility, we fight against someone who is masked. The mask of the adult is called “experience.” It is expressionless, impenetrable, and ever the same. The adult has always experienced everything; youth, ideals, hopes, woman. It was all illusion.— Often we feel intimidated an embittered. Perhaps he is right. What can our retort be? We have not yet experienced anything.
But let us attempt to raise the mask. What has this adult experienced? What does he wish to prove to us? This above all: he, too, was once young; he, too, wanted what we wanted; he, too, refused to believe his parents, but life has taught him they were right. Saying this, he smiles in a superior fashion: this will also happen to us—in advance he devalues the years we will live, making them into a time of sweet youthful pranks, of childish rapture, before the long sobriety of serious life. Thus the well-meaning, the enlightened. We know other pedagogues whose bitterness will not even concede to us the brief years of youth; serious and grim they want to push us directly into life’s drudgery. Both attitudes devalue and destroy our years.
Walter Benjamin, “Experience” (1914)
I don’t want to be one of those people that I used to get irritated with when I was growing up—the person who had already been there and done that. So I wonder a lot about keeping my experiences to myself. I’ve grown used to being in classrooms where I was older than my teachers. What happens inside a classroom should be, as far as I’ve grown used to it, a sharing of experience. The experience of the person at the front of the room should be substantial regarding the key subject which convenes the assembly; it hardly seems relevant whether their experience is greater in every aspect of life. It just doesn’t matter.
It is impossible to turn back, once experienced. I think you just have to move forward somehow. No one knows what you know—but in turn, you have no clue what they know either unless you find some common ground to talk about it free of the pedestal of “experience.”