Unlearning Things

A lot of things can be unlearned, like the things we learn in school. For a lot of subjects, as soon as you hand in the exam, everything is immediately forgotten. After a few years, at best, I can remember the names of the things I’ve studied with none of the detail retained. For most classes, I can’t even name a couple things I’ve supposedly learned because they are completely unlearned.

However, there are other things that aren’t easily unlearned and it’s hard to imagine how you would think without the knowledge. Everyone has their own unique personal examples of these but it is universally difficult to unlearn language, communication, and thought. We may forget how to read or write in languages we haven’t used in a long time but it’s impossible to forget the entire language.

Gestures like thumbs up and thumbs down are just symbols humans have invented. Everyone knows them and it’s hard to imagine how you would react if you didn’t know the gesture and you saw someone doing it. I really can’t imagine how I would interpret those symbols without prior knowledge of them. The obvious interpretation is that I might think it’s pointing up or down, but that’s not very creative. Maybe I would think they’re motioning me to jump or jerk. Maybe I would think that the thumb is my head and I’m supposed to hug myself. These aren’t good examples because I can’t imagine it which is exactly what I said four sentences ago.

There are certain words and expressions that we use very often and sometimes they’re the only way to express a thought. Let’s take the word sarcasm for example. That one word is so concise and without it, it’s really hard to describe what it is. You need a full sentence to replace that word, defining sarcasm as saying the opposite of what you mean but you’re not lying because the intent is to condescend as opposed to deceive. Okay, without the word, you can still kind of grasp at the concept. Now, what about a situation where the wrong person is being mildly sarcastic and the rebel utterly lacks sarcasm which makes it funny. For example, if a teacher lectures a student and jokingly compares his actions to terrorism and the student just says “no” to the teacher with a straight face. The humor and the irony would be completely lost because there was no concise understanding of sarcasm. And if you don’t know the words “crazy psycho confusing crap”, then how can you describe what you’ve just read?