When I taught third grade, my first job every year was to learn my students' names. It takes me work to remember names. I need a lot of repetition and practice. So, first thing on the first day, we'd sit in a circle and the child to my left would say their name, then the second child on the left would say the first child's name and then their name. The third child would say the first child's name, the second child's name, then their name, and so forth until the circle came to me and I would attempt to name the 25 children in consecutive order.
This made for some hilarity as nearly all the children knew each other from second grade or before. I positioned anyone new to the school at the beginning, so everyone got to repeat their names, and they wouldn't have to learn 20+ new ones. It worked. From day one, I could reliably name all the children.
And, nearly every mid-year, at least one child would look at me when I used their name, with this look of, "where have you been, old man?" as I had clearly missed the news, and told me, "I'm Dana now."
After locking in what I had assumed was an eternal verity, I now had to unhook the hard-learned Alyson, and replace it with Dana. For me, it created a cognitive dissonance. And I'm sure I missed getting it right once or twice before I locked in the new name.
Our minds have the amazing ability to generate thinking shortcuts. We can make rapid decisions based on previous experience or similar experiences. These heuristics lighten our cognitive load. A lot of information gets pre-positioned so it's ready for use, like my student's name, Alyson.
Except now it's Dana.
Among the gifts of age is the accumulation of knowledge and experience. When our knowledge and experience is sound, it results in what we call wisdom. When our knowledge and experience is unsound it results in prejudice. And sometimes sound knowledge and experience changes. And often what we once understood as sound knowledge and experience never was sound. When knowledge and experience changes or the understanding of it changes, we can be slow to get the news.
What's worse is we can get the news and resist the work we have to do to unhook the hard-learned knowledge and replace it. The cognitive dissonance is real, and the work to unhook can be hard with risk of failure. Especially when the benefit appears to go to someone else, and not to us. That's what generosity is for. Generosity both requires and creates wisdom.
Juneteenth. It took a long time to get the news. Still got a lot to unlearn.
Lift Every Voice -- James Weldon Johnson -- Amanda Bradshaw arrangement
Roll over Beethoven -- Chuck Berry