Learning How to Think

In our first few weeks of classes we’ve already learned a lot. We learned how to think and how to learn. This might sound like pretty basic stuff, but it’s actually critically important to not just this course, but to our life. We have learned how to critically think, how to unpack ideas and analyze them more closely than we might have before. One of our course epigraphs illustrates this idea well, Percival Everett states, “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood. Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean some thing, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” 

The first sentence “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood.” condenses some of what I said before, the idea that anyone can ever understand each other is crazy to think about. Everybody has unique thoughts and feelings, yet through inflections and common words people can understand each other. This got me thinking about something from our class, The Bacchae. The Bacchae was written around 405 BC. That means it has been around for 2427 years, and we still understand it, we can still study it. The Bacchae was written by people who lived in a completely different time period but it still makes sense. It’s hard to wrap your head around that. This idea tells us a few things, one of the obvious being that language is a connector. Through language we can connect with the past, with their ideas and feelings. On top of that, because these texts still make sense to us it shows how similar we are to people in the past. People were still people then, just living in a different situation. This can be seen as both comforting and scary. It’s nice to think that people have been thinking and communicating in similar ways for centuries. It’s also scary to think about how little has changed over what seems like such a large span of time to us. That one single sentence led me toward thinking about The Bacchae and about the minds about people from ancient times.

In our first few classes we learned to think critically about everything. One of our course epigraphs was an internet meme, something most people wouldn’t give a second thought to. However, we spent at least 20 minutes discussing and unpacking meaning behind it to grasp a better understanding. Critical thinking can make your mind run wild in all different ways. If you try hard enough you can connect almost anything to something else. In my paragraph above I moved from a one sentence quote about  language and communication and connected it to our reading of the Bacchae. These texts don’t have any crossover within them, but finding connections between them is a huge part of what we should do when thinking critically. “Intertextuality is the condition of interconnectedness among texts, or the concept that any text is an amalgam of others…” (Murfin and Ray 476). Using this theory we are able to find connections between texts. Moving forward in this course, and in life, I’ll be making as many strong connections as I can between works. This may help me to find inspiration when I’m trying to write an essay, or allow me to explain something more easily. Another thing we learned was about how to learn effectively. We should be learning so that we can teach the topic we’re learning about, not just memorize parts to pass a test. Finding connections makes this easier. As a student hoping to become a teacher in the future this is one of the most important concepts to me. The avenues that critical thinking opens will be extremely helpful to me as a student. I’ve already written half of this essay based around just the first sentence of one of our epigraphs.

The second part of our course epigraph that says “Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean some thing, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” This part of the epigraph is a little bit more confusing than the first. It almost feels like this second half is explaining pieces of critical thinking. Sentences are meant to be understood. The reason we form sentences is to communicate with others and get our ideas across. What this quote shows is that people often understand each other. Normally when people speak to each other the meaning doesn’t get lost, but it’s not impossible. When people think critically about what people have said, what words they’ve used, it can change the intended meaning. That’s why Everett said “the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” This makes me think more about what I say. Going forward I am going to be more critical of my choices in speech. I don’t want my intentions to be misinterpreted, as it is possible to do. Part of the way I plan to make my meaning more clear is through consistent communication. The more well I know somebody, the less likely it is that I am misunderstood. I think that implementing clear communication in class will help to keep my intentions clear and also promote good faith.

So far, this course has already been one of the most beneficial to me in just a few weeks of having it. I had never heard of an epigraph before this class but after learning more about them I can’t stop noticing things that would make great epigraphs in future writing. I think another hugely important part of this class that’s more of a theme, is operating in good faith. I find it easy to operate in good faith when I know the professor is too. I have already found myself pushing myself harder for this course and being more critical of my work because I want to meet the good faith expectations that have been set. I think that will be the most impactful thing in this course. A goal I can already set for myself is to plan ahead more. I think that the level of work we are doing can be seen just by the amount of critical thinking we’ve already done and if I’m going to keep up and work in good faith I’m going to need to plan ahead. My main goals for this class will be to plan ahead and openly communicate. These two goals will help me to operate in good faith and succeed.