Zack Vayda and Deconstruction: Part 1
When I was young I would read all the time. Harry Potter, Eragon, Star Wars, the Chronicles of Narnia, Michael Crichton, the Redwall series, whatever I could get my hands on, I read.
I remember one summer in middle school where I kept a journal detailing how many books I read, how many pages each was, a short description of each one as well as my personal critique of it. I would spend entire days reading and stay up later than I should at night, telling myself, "Just one more chapter."
One thing I never did, though, was read with bad lighting. Even late at night when I was trying to read under the covers of my bed with a flashlight so my parents wouldn't know, if I didn't have good lighting, I'd put the book down. This was because I knew if I kept reading with bad lighting, it would negatively affect my sight. After all, the only thing worse than putting down a good book is to not have the eyesight to read at all.
Today I learned that, contrary to 25 years of belief, reading with poor lighting does NOT negatively affect your eyesight. My first thought was, "All that wasted time!" My second thought was, "Who taught me that in the first place?" And my third thought was, "Why didn't I question it sooner?"
As children, we were taught many things, most of them were either right or wrong, black or white. This was the effective way for us to learn, because as our brains develop, the easiest concepts to grasp are the incontrovertible ones. It's easier to remember that fruit is good for you than to remember that fruit is only good for you if you eat a moderate amount.
But that's where the problem is: The answers we were given as children were incomplete. Yes, exercise is good, but not if you push until you hurt yourself, and certain exercises are better than others. Yes, it's not polite to swear, but on certain occasions swearing is a powerful tool to communicate your point. Yes, your parents and teachers are most often correct, but not all the time. As I said before, it's good that we were taught this way as children because it made the concepts easier to grasp. But now that we are adults (at least on paper), we need the complete answers.
The world is a completely different place as adults than it was as children. More importantly, we are completely different people. To go on believing what we were taught as children is to believe in a child's world. Part of the process of growing up is to understand this new world we live in. Everything has changed, so we must change too.
But if everything has changed, if we can't even rely on our old method of learning, how can we expect to know how to move forward? The best way to think about it is with a metaphor:
So far in our life, we've been able to build a small, one-room shelter. It worked for us as kids because it's all we needed. But now we need a bigger shelter, something more like a house, because we are growing. Before we can begin to think about adding to the shelter, though, we have to figure out what of the existing structure can stay, and what needs to be taken away. Unfortunately, since we built it as kids, quite a bit of it is unstable. Some of it is going to hurt to get rid of because we have a lot of memories with this shelter, but the only other option is to jeopardize the stability of our proposed new house, which we know will only lead to disaster.
This means the first step is not construction, but Deconstruction.