Thoughts on the question of study and its relation to the person

Here’s a thought I had:

Some of us (some more than others) find a desire to study things.  That is to say, there is a tendency to want to look at things to as if ‘decipher’ them.  It seems, though, that study tends to entail a certain mentality.  Some people are predisposed to this mentality.  Others are not.  In this way, one could say that there is a ‘study character’.  This character tends to entail a number of traits:

  1. A sense that one does not know.
  2. A desire to look.
  3. A desire to decipher or interpret

Typically, there is a satisfaction in this.  A person who truly has the ‘study character’ will continue to study even though they will gain nothing from it.  They also will continue it when nothing demands it (such as necessity, schooling, or a job).  Also, these traits are seen in their day-t0-day lives.

Its not uncommon that many people will display what I call ‘sporadic study’.  This is study that is done here and there for various reasons.  It tends to be sporadic and each study is usually on a different subject and once they are done they are done.  ‘Sporadic study’ is actually a part of normal living and life.  With the ‘study character’ it is a more extensive version and can, for some people, define life.  They will study as a part of everyday life and its usually on similar subjects or, rather, all the subjects tend to be related in some way.  It seems to be an ongoing affair that never ends.

I’ve found that many people who study, nowadays, do not have the ‘study character’ even though they may study a lot.  This is the ‘pseudo-study character’.  They may appear to have the ‘study character’ but really don’t.  Other things motivate their study than their character.  Typically, conditions end up requiring the person to study, often extensively . . . but that still doesn’t mean that its a manifestation of their character.  Because the study is not “genuine” it often does not have the three traits of study as described above.  For example, they may have no real sense that they do not know (for example, they think they know everything because they study) or have no real desire to look or inquire.  Because of this, they really have no intention to look or decipher things (that is, study) though they may go through the motions of study.  This tends to create a more shallow form of study that tends to create more shallow results.  This is very prevalent nowadays, I’ve found.

In study we tend to only look at the subject matter.  This is generally the focus and main point.  We could speak of this as the ‘subject-oriented perspective of study’.  But I often think we should ask ourselves more involved questions about study itself, such as:

  • Why does one study a subject at all?
  • Why does a subject interest one enough to want to study it?
  • What are you’re intentions?
  • What are you trying to get out of it?
  • Am I interested in the subject matter or the act of study?

These are, in my opinion, very important questions.  Asking questions, such as these, views study as a more involved thing, as an entirety of the person, the act, the motive, and the subject.  We could call this the ‘holistic-oriented perspective of study’.  In this perspective, study is viewed as being much more than subject matter.

In asking these questions, though, it seems to particularly reveal questions of ulterior motives.  These are motives that use something (in this case, study) as a means for some other end.  Because of this, study is not the motive but a ‘stepping stone’ for something else.  The reason why this is so important is that ulterior motives tend to distort and alter ones perception and interpretation of things, often unconsciously and without ones awareness.  Not only that, it tends to remove the person from the equation, making it practically a mechanical act, like using a calculator.  In short, we “see what we want to see”, basically, and forget the rest.  In this way, our perception and interpretation of things becomes more a reflection of the ulterior motives than anything else.

So we see that the purpose of the ‘holistic-oriented perspective of study’ is to gain a more ‘genuine’  and undistorted perception and interpretation of things.  Not only that, it is intended to get a perception and interpretation of things that hits ones self deep down and has personal relevance and value.  In many ways, that is what a person is truly seeking in study, a “genuine personal relevance”, unclouded and undistorted.  The ‘subject-oriented perspective of study’, on the other hand, tends to look at things mechanically and in a non-personal way which means it tends to lack a genuine personal relevance..

The types of ulterior motives are many.  Some, that I commonly see, include:

  • A person is just casually “interested” (this makes it something more on the lines of a hobby).
  • A person has an ability or knack at it which makes them do it even though they have no real interest.
  • So they can make more money.
  • For some social standing and prestige.
  • Trying to fit into a ‘group’, social trend, fad, etc.
  • Because of some personal relation to the subject matter (such as that it reminds you of someone you love).
  • Because one feels an obligation to do it (such as peer pressure).
  • The need to satisfy a job or school project.

Many of these motives tend to alter the perception and interpretation in study.  It can do this in ways such as:

  • It can alter the interpretation to favor the ulterior motive.  In this way, it may make the perception and interpretation seem “correct”.  Typically, it is only in relation to the ulterior motive.
  • It can alter the interpretation unconsciously, often to justify, support, or confirm to the ulterior motive.

In ways, such as these, the perception or interpretation tends to be twisted or warped as a result of the ulterior motive.  As a result, study, in a way, only becomes a means to falsely justify the ulterior motives and, often, to promote it.  From my observation, this is quite common nowadays.  This is because, in this era of “ultra information”, there is so much material.  In addition, there are so many means to manipulate and distort things.  In a way, all this information is asking to be distorted . . . and it is . . . and all for the purpose of the ulterior motive.  In many cases, I’ve found, the question is not the subject of study but the motive of study for that determines everything, the interpretation and the conclusion.

There is a myth that “study automatically makes it right”.  Its as if study makes it abstract and distant (“scientific”) thereby creating ultimate and absolute results.  This is especially true if study is done “officially”, such as at a University or for work.  People seem to think that this makes it somehow “pure” and “correct”, as if by magic.  My observation is showing that this is not true at all.  In fact, there are now so many ulterior motives that any product from the University or work (such as a study or some research) is now under question.  More than once have I been able to tell what the motive is just by looking at the interpretation and conclusion.  Oftentimes, the motive is to “come up with something” in order to get a grade or as part of ones career.  This creates what I sometimes call “fluff theory”.  This is where some interpretation or conclusion is made (the “theory”) that appears to mean something but really doesn’t mean anything.  Its done to primarily get a grade or for ones job or career . . . that’s the motive.  I often jokingly compare it to doing research to determine “exactly” what color the sky is:  blue, blue-purple, turquoise, or maybe there are different colors?  In my opinion, a lot of scholarship, nowadays, is becoming “fluff theory”.  This makes scholarship, really, nothing but a lot of “intellectual noise”.  This is because, to be frank, a lot of subjects have been gone over so much that there really isn’t a whole lot of new stuff to add.  There are now so many people looking at the same thing, from the same point of view, and with the same (or similar) motives that its all become a blur.  But school and work “demands” new stuff and so it is created by necessity and requirement.  This situation, then, is forcing the creation of “fluff theory”.

I have often felt that a true form of study always leads back to ones self.  That is to say, the study becomes an expression of ones self in some way or another.  In this way, study becomes a reflection of ones self.  This is one reason why I am skeptical of “scientific study”, where they think they are being abstract and non-biased.  In some forms of study, such as chemistry, there is truth to this but in many areas (probably most) this is not true.

A persons study reflects the need of the self in many different ways.  Examples include:

  • Practical – usefulness.  This includes learning how to do something that has practical value, such as a trade or how to change the oil in the car.  Much study, particularly when it is work related, tends to fit in this class.
  • Practical – conception.  This includes study as a way to get a better, wiser, or more healthier conception of the world and situations.  A good example is studying the texts of ones religion to understand it better.
  • Personal.  This refers to satisfy ones personal interior need for something.  Usually, it has a psychological or spiritual value to the person.

These all tend to entail an honestly intended inquiry that is motivated out of need or for a definite use.  In other words, it has a “genuine” motive.  Because of this, study does not twist or warp its subject matter as it often does when there are ulterior motives.  In addition, it also seems to become more productive and meaningful, I think.  It certainly has more value to the person.  A lot of study with ulterior motives becomes “waste” or “frivolous” and tends to be forgotten even though it may seem important at first (as is seen in a lot of “fluff theory”).  This is because it has no real value to the person or self.

I tend to view that “deep study” is always personal.  By “deep study” I mean study that one seems somehow ‘driven’ to do and in which one puts a lot of their heart into (unlike the study, say, of trying to figure out how to fill out a government form).  Its “deep” because it hits ones self deep down.  This is because what one feels inclined to study is a reflection of something about ones self deep down.  Because of this, I often feel that its often best to inquire where the desire originates from.  In many ways, inquiring into the “real motive” of study may be more revealing than the actual study of the subject matter itself.  My own personal experience has shown this to be true.  Because of this, I tend to feel that a person should seriously ask ones self why they are interested in this or that subject and what they expect to get out of its study.  One should also ask ones self if there are any ulterior motives and what they are. 

In many ways, asking questions, such as these, becomes the “real study” as this is what a person truly seeks.  The subject matter is only the object of the “real motive”, not the source.  Because of this, inquiry into the “real motive” may reveal a lot about a persons state of mind, what they want out of life, their conflicts and dilemmas, and reveal inner situations and realities.  Many things, such as these, can be found hidden under the desire to study this or that subject.  This gives a whole new dimension to study.  Oftentimes, it makes the subject matter one is studying look shallow in comparison, almost to the point of being trivial. I also feel that the inquiry into the “real motive” should be an ongoing inquiry.   This is because a person changes through time.  Sometimes, this change reveals other motives, desires, dilemmas, etc.  Even the three traits can reveal hidden dilemmas.  Examples include:

  1. A sense that one does not know – a feeling that one doesn’t have a grasp on life, feeling lost, etc.
  2. A desire to look – an attempt at trying to find an ‘answer’ to a hidden conflict, a revealing of a need that can’t be fulfilled, etc.
  3. A desire to decipher or interpret – an illusion intended to make it feel as if one has a hold on life when you actually don’t, an attempt at “explaining” some inner failure, etc.

In other words, the desire and emphasis to do these things may, itself, reveal hidden dilemma’s and aspects about ones self.  In short, not only can the subject matter disguise a “real motive” but also the very act of study!   That is to say, studying – that is “how” you study – can hide great truths about ones self and become quite revealing.  Sometimes, the “how” can show things such as:

  • A certain quality one needs.
  • A specific way of being.
  • A need of doing something.

In other words, the “how” tends to reveal the unspoken aspects about ones self.  Oftentimes, one finds certain ways or aspects of study that seem appealing for some reason.  This may lead to certain emphasis on orientations in ones study and how one does it.  In some cases, the emphasis on a specific “how” can become a form of expression and reflect a persons “style” of being, much like an artist who has his style of painting.  In this way, the “how” can lead to great growth of self.

This shows that study actually has many aspects, each of which may reveal something else in itself.   These aspects are:

  1. The subject matter of study.  What is studied.
  2. The motive of study.  Why its studied.
  3. The act of study.  The actual “how” of study.

Inquiry into these three things may reveal the “real motive” of what’s behind it.  Each, though, seem to reveal different things.  It seems they tend to follow this pattern:

  • The subject matter:  reveals themes and symbols.
  • The motives:  reveals intentions, wants, and desires.
  • The act:  deeper unspoken aspects of ones self.

It seems, at least to me, that the ‘holistic-oriented perspective of study’ tends to lead to a greater sense of ones self and the world.  In other words, a person becomes a part of the world and the world becomes a part of them.  The ‘subject-oriented perspective of study’, on the other hand, tends to lead to “information”, “facts”, and such.  The person, in general, is removed and distance.  In fact, the person is generally absent in the whole affair.  This may be fine in some forms of study, such as chemistry or how to change the oil, but for people with the ‘study character’ it is usually not enough and is grossly insufficient, in my opinion.  I’ve always felt that, for people with the ‘study character’, there needs to be more than subject matter:  study, as a whole, is what’s revealing.  Unfortunately, I’ve found that few go that far.  This creates a condition so that the ‘study character’ becomes sort of ‘stunted’ or so it seems to me.  I call this the ‘stunted study character’.   This is primarily a person with the ‘study character’ who focuses only on the subject matter and does no inquiry of self.  But, because of their emphasis on the subject matter, the need for their self remains unfulfilled and incomplete.  As a result, they are looking for “answers” (which is really their self) in the subject matter . . . but it isn’t there.  Their emphasis on the subject matter makes them completely forget their need to look at their self.  But the need of their sense of self is so strong that it becomes projected onto the subject matter.  This causes them to distort, warp, accentuate, or exaggerate aspects of the subject matter to reflect their self . . . the subject matter becomes, in a way, their self.  In some cases, this causes them to do things like:

  • They glorify and even “religionify” the subject matter.
  • They fabricate false truths, seeming to have truth but actually without it.
  • They see things that aren’t there.
  • They create off-the-wall viewpoints.

In short, they “distort things to see their self in the subject matter”.  This is seen a lot with scientists, I’ve found.  I see it a lot with quantum physicists, astrophysicists, UFO researchers, and such.  These are people, interestingly, that are on the ‘border’ of definable things, of things that are “just definable but not completely”.  That is, they are looking at things from the ‘subject-oriented perspective’ but the subject matter not only has a very definable area but there is a part of it that is very vague which as if leaves a vacuum that allows for their projection of self.  In this way, the vacuum becomes the area where they project their self making it into a reflection of their self:  the ‘self-projected subject matter’.  Often, you can tell a lot by a person by their interpretations and theories because it really is a reflection of their self.  Typically, though, they never associate their interpretation and theory in respect of their self as they view it abstractly, as the subject matter, devoid of self.  As a result, even though they project their self onto the subject matter (that is, their self is actually in front of their faces) the ‘stunted study character’ never ends up finding their self.  This is the irony.  Because of this, it often makes the study of the subject matter an endless quest for “answers” that never seem to be answered, causing a general sense of frustration and disappointment.

Watching this happen over the years with people has made me see the importance of looking closer at study or, to be more precise, to look at it in a more ‘holistic’ way.  I particularly know this from personal experience.  I can remember all the years studying subject matter up the ying-yang and continually feeling frustrated and disappointed:  there seemed something missing.  Even though there were moments of “answers” and fulfillment there always lingered this sense of frustration and disappointment that hung over me like a cloud.  Over time, I began to realize that I was actually using the subject matter to find my self:  it was my self that I was actually after!


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Education, learning, and over education, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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