Science and Reason: Experience

I’ve noticed through self-observation that there is a difference between what I think and feel about an event and what I think and feel about that same event once I am actually experiencing it or after I have experienced it.

Travelling is an example for me.  A few years ago, we planned a return trip to Ireland, a place we had visited a decade before with students on an educational tour.  We had said then, and we were making good on it, that we had to return on our own with as much freedom to visit as possible (no tour guides).  We made the plans and gave the trip (to be taken the following summer) to ourselves for Christmas that year.  Then, for the next six months my thoughts and feelings about the trip began to build in me a slow dread.  What kinds of places would we stay in?  Would I really be able to drive a car on the “wrong” side of the road?  What if I couldn’t?  I would be ruining a dream trip.  What if one of us got sick while we were there?  I had so much to do at home–the yard, school plans, blah, blah, blah.  By the time we left I was nearly sick with the thoughts and feelings that were very real to me while looking out on the event yet to be.

We took the trip.  We had a blast.  We are planning another one.  That trip is three years behind us now, and my thoughts and feelings about it are nothing but positive.  When Ireland comes up in any conversation, I light up.  We love to collect photos of Ireland’s amazing landscape.  Things Irish, in general, catch our attention.

Experience is an important element in human thought and feeling.  I always take thought and feeling together because they are always at work in us whether we admit it or not.  We might as well as admit it.  On any given subject worthy of thought, we have ideas, gather facts and make judgments.  Those judgments are always touched to some degree or another by our feeling life, by what moves us.  Experience itself touches both our thinking and our feeling.  In fact, I now think that experience provides both thought and feeling fresh resources to make our vision clearer and more informed.

Bob Patrick

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