Opinion: Heard it all before

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If we’ve heard it a million times before, why does it feel like this is the very first time? Sure, sometimes we intentionally pretend not to have any idea what they were saying – even when we knew full well that we weren’t going to do what they asked. Being passive-aggressive is shameful but often very effective.  Still, sometimes it really does seem like they are communicating a new idea, so why don’t we remember it?    

Funny how the human mind works – or doesn’t. To each new bit of information there is assigned a priority and a place. Vetted by experience and capacity, we absorb what we deem important and discharge the rest as unnecessary excess. As we grow and accumulate a bit more life from which to draw, we have a different take on what is important. The filter is adjusted. What didn’t matter last year is central to our thinking this year. New is in and old is out.

In other cases, we have decided that we never have to worry about Subject A or Topic B because our spouse, or colleague, or teacher, or government, or doctor, or mom will take care of it for us. We focus our energies elsewhere. Scottish economist/philosopher Adam Smith was right about the efficiencies gained by a division of labor in his pin factory. We don’t need to become a universal expert.

But can we claim the same always? Should we listen when we know they will say it again? Should we work when someone else will work for us? Should we learn our mother-in-law’s birthday when we are certain that our spouse already knows it? Should we educate ourselves or let someone else speak for us? It seems like we’ve heard the answer somewhere before but simply can’t recall when or where. Hmm.


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