IV. Unlearn What You Have Learned

Let’s just say it. Can we all agree that Yoda is a total badass?

Ever since I was a kid, this little green pointy-eared Sage of the Wilderness has been an invaluable influence and source of wisdom for me.  Incidentally, his teachings about the Force, which George Lucas based heavily on ideas from Taoism, Buddhism and the flow of energy through natural systems, were a great source of comfort and metaphor when I was transitioning from my belief in Christianity to Agnosticism and eventually to Atheism.

In what is arguably one of the most defining scenes in all of sci-fi cinema (or any genre for that matter) from “The Empire Strikes Back”, Luke is training with Yoda and becomes distracted when he notices that his crash-landed spaceship has nearly succumbed to the swamps of Degobah.

From the movie script:

LUKE: Oh, no. We’ll never get it out now.

YODA: So certain are you. Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you
nothing that I say?

LUKE: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally

YODA: No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn
what you have learned.

LUKE: (focusing, quietly) All right, I’ll give it a try.

YODA: No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

At this point in the movie, Luke tries to lift the ship using the Force, but collapses in defeat, claiming that it’s too big and that his master has asked the impossible. Yoda then steps up and does some badass Jedi mental gymnastics, pointing a tiny, withered old hand at the sinking ship and lifting it up out of the muck with naught but his will, setting it lightly down on the beach while Luke looks on in complete bewilderment.

LUKE: I don’t…I don’t believe it.

YODA: That is why you fail.

Unlearn what you have learned. What an awesome sentiment. Is it possible? Mark Twain once said, “Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.”  And Henry David Thoreau noted, “When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before.” 

I personally believe that unlearning what we have learned is the only way to aggressively improve and move forward in one’s thinking. Indeed, without it society would never have been able to progress in knowledge and technology up to this point. In my last post, I offered up a challenge for all of us in 2012 to commit to at least begin the essential task of ridding our lives of Bullshit. I now offer two practical examples of how to eliminate bullshit from your own life, incorporating the principle of unlearning:

1) You have learned that managing your finances badly is okay. Today’s society has made it the social norm to go through life without a balanced budget, thousands of dollars in debt, barely scraping by from paycheck to paycheck, not saving any or enough money for your retirement, having no extra funds if a crisis happened, spending your hard-earned dollars on things that you simply don’t need or even things that are literally killing you. (Point to ponder: Doesn’t this sound an awful lot like the current economic crisis that our country as a whole and many other countries around the world are experiencing? Hmmm…) This personal lack of financial wisdom is complete bullshit. If this sounds like you, it’s time to unlearn the bad habits you have learned. Get a budget so that you know exactly where your money is going. Develop a monthly plan to get rid of your debt and stick to it. Get your priorities straight and curb your frivolous spending. Save for your future. It IS hard, but it does get easier with practice. I promise that being financially responsible will feel so much better than the current situation you’re in. If you’re doing these things already, then you’re awesome. Please help someone else find the way.

2) You have learned that abusing your body is okay. You put crap that could never pass as nutrition (and can scarcely pass as food) into your body every day and expect it to run like a well-oiled machine. For some, your muscles have atrophied and are now encapsulated by a layer of fat, and your feet, knees and back ache from the heavy burden. You spend all day sitting in front of a screen and the most effort you put into working out is walking from the couch to the fridge and back again. Perhaps you spend an ungodly amount of money every month in servitude to the addictions that you put in your body, even as they slowly kill you. If so, how’s all that working out for you? This utter disregard for your body is complete bullshit. Unlearn it, now. Your body is one of the most amazing spectacles that the Universe has ever spawned forth. It is a precious gift, and therefore it is imprudent and ungrateful to abuse it. I hate to break it to you, but there are only two things that can and have ever been able to fix this problem: DIET and EXERCISE. Forget diet pills and power cleanses and liquid diets. Do the research; these types of gimmicks simply don’t work. Stick to a set number of calories per day, get nearly all of those calories from healthy foods in small portions four or five times throughout the day, and work out for an hour at least 3 times a week. It IS hard, but it does get easier with practice. I promise that being strong, healthy, happy and confident will feel so much better than the current situation you’re in. If you’re already doing these things, then you’re awesome. Please help someone else find the way.

If you haven’t seen it on Yahoo or Facebook yet, click on this link for an awesome article on 30 things to stop doing to yourself. It’s a damn good list for the new year that goes beyond the usual unattainable and cliched resolutions.

I know change is hard, but it’s worth it. Believe me, even as I write this I have had to take a long hard look in the mirror at my own bullshit. So why do I care about your life so much? Because I care about mine, and I care about the future of the World. Imagine if every person in the world worked just a little bit harder to become financially responsible. What would our economies and governments look like? Imagine if everyone dedicated just a small part of their lives to eating healthy and exercising their bodies. What would that do to healthcare, depression, disease, lifespans, and quality of life? You don’t have to imagine it; you can do it.

Unlearn what you have learned…

But remember, Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try…

Prev: On Bullshit and the New Year                                                Next: Mad As Hell

~ by christhehumanist on December 31, 2011.

3 Responses to “IV. Unlearn What You Have Learned”

  1. Ahhhhh yes……Yoda and Jonathan Livingston Seagull both most certainly serve as guiding lights along the way.

  2. What you say makes sense and can be done …….


    you don’t live below the poverty line
    somehow all you can think of then is food.

    you have someone who cares enogh to guide you …
    someone you trust

    you have never witnessed a mother or a child physically abused

    you had an average up bringing by someone who loved you

    you had everything you ever wanted but lacked a sense of belonging

    the problem seems to be that you have to have come through
    many difficulties before you will WANT to listen to a Yoda ….
    and be emotionally mature enough to stop to listen when he talks.

    too often major shifts in “what is” need to happen before
    one has eyes to see and ears to hear or the will to do.

    I will check out the link you recommend and thank you.

  3. ***Author’s Note: As of 01/27/2013, I cleaned up the language and tone of this article a little bit. I was pretty angry at the world and at some of my own bad habits at the time. Revisiting it a year later, I felt the tone was a bit too harsh, so I made it a bit more encouraging (but not compromising).

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