Ryu Yung-kyun Professor, Dept. of English Lang. & Lit. firstname.lastname@example.org
More than a dozen years ago, a friend of mine, who was studying at that time in London, sent me a book. Though I do not remember what book he had sent me, I do remember there was a bookmark inside the book.
And strangely enough, I still remember clearly what was printed on that bookmark. Yes, somehow, I still remember it. I guess it is probably because I found it is very interesting. When you find something interesting, it is likely that you remember it better. This bookmark said :
“The more you study, the more you learn; The more you learn, the less you know; So, why study?”
Well, I would probably respond to this odd and equivocal question with an equally odd and equivocal answer. I would say, “The less you know, the more you understand; So, we should study.” You see, understanding does not necessarily have much to do with what you learn and know. No matter how much you study, learn and know, you still could understand nothing.
In other words, a walking dictionary would be somebody who knows a lot and yet who does not understand much about anything. Sometimes, it is not the quantity but the quality of your study that really matters. And you could say the same applies to life in general. Even if you were a Know-it-all, you would still understand little or nothing about life as a whole.
We all want something in life. But nobody knows for sure what that ‘something’ we want is. It is usually the case that we study in order to get what we want. What is it that we want?
It could be probably one, several, or all of the following things : power, knowledge, money, love, health, happiness, or wisdom, enlightenment or nirvana. So, we study. And the more we study, the more we learn. No problem. And in due time, we should be able to get what we want just like that.
The problem is, however, in “The more you learn, the less you know.” We don’t want less; we always want more. So, our study usually ends there. Why bother to study unless you get to know more?
Well, then, I hope you would have to remember at the same time that wisdom and happiness lie not necessarily in the accumulation of wealth and knowledge but sometimes in the elimination of habits, prejudices, and preconceived ideas.
Be it wealth, knowledge, or human relationship, it would mean nothing to you, no matter how much you accumulate it, unless you know how to appreciate, enjoy, and use it. The more you study and accumulate knowledge and information, the more you understand that you don’t know much about anything. When you come to realize that you don’t know much about anything, even about your very own self, you’ve reached the beginning of true understanding.
So, the bookmark I would like to use from now on would probably read something like this :
The more you study, the more you learn; The more you learn, the less you know; So, why study?
The more you learn, the less you know; The less you know, the more you understand; So, you must study.
I understand that understanding has a lot to do with acting in both senses : ‘acting on stage’ and ‘acting on your own in life’. For over a decade, I’ve been offering my students theatre and feminism together in one packet as two major conceptual tools they could use in class in their attempts to understand something about the world. When you act in theatre, you have to ‘eliminate yourself’ and be that person that you impersonate.
As far as I am concerned, acting means getting rid of your own ego and putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes. It is not until you do that you understand the person you are portraying. It is the same case with feminism. I understand that feminism is an attempt to free yourself of all of your preconceived notions and look through a woman’s perspective in order to understand it more.
If you do not act on your own to let yourself be in somebody else’s shoes, you will never understand what it’s like to see through someone else’s perspective. Supposing that you want to understand nothing about any person other than yourself, do you think you would be able to understand anything about yourself?
When I was taking some theatre acting classes many years ago, my acting teachers used to say, “Acting can not be taught, but it can be learned.” I think it holds water not only for acting but also for the process of learning in general.
Active participation is essential to any learning process that is meant to be effective. The verb ‘learn’ itself connotates a very strong action. If you want to learn anything, you will have to do something on your own. You might learn something even when you choose to stay passive. However, what you learn in a passive way is likely to be scanty or superficial.
Simply by reading books on swimming or listening to a teacher who lectures on swimming, you may learn something about how to swim. But you will never learn swimming itself. You can never learn swimming unless you plunge yourself into water and go through trials and errors. Acting on Your Own is the key not only for your study but also for your life.