Kids don't think of themselves as of something distinct, and so they are everything. When a child hears music - she becomes a dancer. When a child sees a playground - she becomes an athlete. When a child sees a handful of building blocks - she becomes an engineer.
As we grow up though, we increasingly put ourselves (and others) in corners. She is an artist. He is a developer. I'm a writer. A degree in something is often seen as a permit to practice it: if you don't know how to dance - get the hell out of the dancefloor. The only thing you can do on a dancefloor without a "dancing degree" - is embarrass yourself. And that - we are told from early age - is a very bad thing.
The real world, obviously, works the other way around: 1. You first try something out of curiosity. 2. Then you get very bad at it and repeatedly embarrass yourself to everybody's amusement. 3. Then, if you persist, you slowly get better. 4. Then you may get a recognition of your skill, or a degree (if you care for that kind of thing).
This misconception - that you have to be good at something in order to start practicing it - creates a lot of problems, on both personal and cultural scales. Essentially for both sides - for those in a corner and for those outside of it.
In Ancient Greece everybody was an athlete. Then being an athlete became a corner. So now a few people, known as professional athletes, hurt their bodies and take drugs to achieve humanly impossible performance levels, and the rest of us hurt our bodies sitting on a sofa watching them do that. Our excuse? We will never be as good as those guys.
Same thing for science. A small amount of people get deeper and deeper into corners of knowledge until they end up knowing practically everything about practically nothing. And the rest of us refrain from being curious and finding things out ourselves. Our excuse? Some people in a corner have already figured it all out.
Uncorner! Be everything. Embarrass yourself. Once you get used to it, it becomes a lot more fun. After all, if the dancefloor is mostly empty and everybody is hiding in their corner, then it doesn't sound like a good party. Does it?
- Raph Koster
- Seymour Papert