Going to college is an interesting experience. It forces you challenge your thinking and view things from different perspectives, while simultaneously making you grow as a person. It’s been a wonderful time for me, and I’ve still got three years to go.
I’ve learned a lot of things, from some really brilliant professors. Some I’ve agreed with, some I’ve disagreed with, but in all cases, I’ve respected them for the ferocity with which they defend their opinions and the amount of knowledge they have to impart.
In all cases, however, I’ve learned one fundamental truth, which has shaped the way I interact with people and view other opinions and worldviews. One simple premise, which seems self-evident but which many people fail to recognize:
The world, and everything in it, is really fucking complicated.
Some of you who know me well know that I’m very left-wing politically, and very much a progressive socially. I think part of the reason I dislike conservatism (particularly its reactionary, American incarnation) is because of its desire to make complex problems simple by providing simple answers.
“America is having problems with its economy.”
“Easy! Cut taxes and let the job creators handle it.”
“America is having problems with its health care.”
“Easy! Get rid of regulations and let the free market handle it.”
“America is having problems with crime.”
“Easy! Lock up people for 30 years if they so much as jaywalk.”
No, it isn’t that easy. IT’S NEVER THAT FUCKING EASY. The world is an incredibly complicated place, and to even get a really great grasp on ONE of its inner mysteries could require years of studying the issue to properly understand it.
Come to think of it, that might be the reason conservatives dislike universities so much. Not because academia mostly disagrees with their right-wing nationalism (though that might be part of it), but because of the degree of self-doubt, critical evaluation, and humility going through college can require. Contrary to the myths I hear spouted all the time about school, my professors are usually the first ones to admit when they don’t know something. The more you learn about the world-and the more you begin to appreciate its complexity-the more you realize that anyone attempting to peddle you a one-size-fits-all solution (be they a conservative, socialist, or something in between) is probably completely full of shit.
That, at least in terms of academics, is the most important thing college has taught me. This little existence of ours can be hard to wrap your brain around, but I, for one, love being uncertain about things, and I’m always open to being proven wrong. As a skeptic, I always value people who are humble and can speak articulately over what they do know over people who are arrogant and prattle on about subjects of which they know nothing.
So sit down, or stand up, and go read a book, or talk to some people. Hear from as many perspectives as you can. Learn. Maybe, one day, you’ll unlock a piece of the puzzle that is our universe. It might be frustrating. It might force you to reevaluate everything you believe. But when you discover the truth, that makes it all the more satisfying.