We can claim to be experts about swimming techniques. We could give classes, teach about their different styles (butterfly, crawl, backstroke or breaststroke). We could even give advice about swimming if asked. We may also inflate our ego as we share our knowledge with those who know little about the subject or have misconceptions. However, our knowledge is not complete. We have never even dared to swim! Without the voice of experience, what we say and assert doesn’t have the same importance or value.
Every day we stumble upon people who give us lots of advice that doesn’t come from their own direct experience (or that only comes from their experience). They consider themselves experts because they have read about the topic, done a training course or listened to a person of renown.
The voice of experience is very valuable, because it provides us with real learning, which has been experienced first handShare
We often don’t realize how valuable experience is. Much of its value stems from the empathy it allows us to experience. With it we realize that any theory has a limit in terms of its accuracy (reality in this sense is always much richer than the concept). When we experience something first hand, in a real and authentic way, it gives us much of our knowledge and, above all, is what settles in our memories.
The great fear of jumping into the water
Why don’t we decide to throw ourselves into the water without a second thought? Why do we prefer to speak without having experienced for ourselves what we are trying to communicate? Fear and insecurity could be two reasons for this feeling. As we haven’t tried these things for ourselves, we anticipate what we think will happen. And yet these fears remain in our lives thanks to our lack of experience.
We have been raised with the idea that we should judge and recriminate others, believing ourselves to be the knowledgeable ones, in possession of the absolute truth. We were taught that that our words have much more clout than our own experiences. However, many of those words lack credibility because we never “got into the water”. We never tried to touch reality.
Do we really understand?
How can we say that we know something inside out if we have never dared to live it out? We may know all about Picasso’s La Guernica, for example. We can recite the author’s life by heart, and the context of his work. But were we there at the moment when that bombing, now turned into a work of art, took place? Can we really get an idea of how the people who lost their loved ones lived through it?
You wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.
-Robin Williams (The Indomitable Will Hunting)-
From the comfort of our sofa, with a book in our hands, we sometimes think we know everything, when the truth of the matter is that we are very far away from being able to understand the real meaning of that moment. We can’t feel the sensations and emotions that were experienced. Nor the chaos, fear and pain that many people witnessed. The voice of experience is much more enriching and real than any others who have never experienced what they are talking about.
The voice of experience has an incalculable value
We dare to criticize and judge people we know nothing or very little about. Sometimes our words hurt them more than we think, because we talk without really knowing. We don’t take into account what they have lived, because we haven’t been in their shoes. We aren’t aware that what we think we know about them is probably far less than we think.
In order to take this all in, and to reflect some more on the importance of the voice of experience, we would like to share this clip with you, taken from the movie “The Indomitable Will Hunting”. The words that Robin Williams says to Will Hunting are sure to move you deeply.
Almost certainly, if we stop to think for a moment, we’ll remember having found ourselves in a situation similar to that of the young man in the movie at some point in our lives. This clip allows us to realize how little we know about others and about what surrounds us. But, above all, it helps us to be aware that the information we have is either mostly incomplete, or it lacks the richness of having experienced it.
Grandparents are a clear example of what is the voice of experience.Share
Perhaps we ourselves have tried to convey to other people some difficult or important experience that we have had. Despite our best attempts to share, there will always be something that others will never fully understand. This is because they haven’t been able to live it out in our flesh. However, the voice of experience, the voice of our experience, is still important for those who listen to us.
We can all learn from the experiences of others. They enrich us, and bring us knowledge that we don’t have. They help us to open our minds. And to do this we have to be willing to listen without judging. But, above all, we have to take the plunge and try to experience everything we can first hand. This is what will truly bring us the greatest riches in life.
Images courtesy of Christian Schloe