Side note: originally I wasn’t going to post this, but it was so well received amongst my peers, that I decided to go through with it.
I believe in listening to all the world has to offer and reflecting on it. I believe that an open ear equals an open mind. I also believe an open mind makes for a wiser, more critical and enlightened person. Anyone can tell you a half knowledgeable statement and opinion, or a black and white “answer.” Rarely is there a person willing to sit down and adequately listen to another person. A person that is willing to go further with the ideas is even harder to find.
When I was fourteen years old I signed up for wrestling. This was my first time in wrestling, and needless to say I lost, a lot. So I decided to try my hand at a lower weight class and set forth to lose some weight. One of the habits I picked up to help me accomplish this goal were long walks on the weekend.
I lived on an army base at the time, and anyone who’s been in a similar situation will tell you, every road on a base is pretty much made with joggers in mind. Large sections of gravel off to the side of the road endlessly looping. So the situation was perfect, an IPod full of music, lots of free weekend time, and plenty of space to roam. After a while though, I grew tired of listening to DeadMau5 and Daft Punk on loop over and over again. I then decided that this would be an opportune moment to get my news in as well. At the time I was already listening to The Nerdist podcast, so I looked around for some more to listen to. I quickly fell in love with many of the podcasts I found; some of which I still listen to to this day. Podcasts like: Destructoid, IGN: beyond, The Comedy Button, Indoor Kids, etc. They were mostly video game and nerd themed podcasts, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t more to it than just that.
Despite most of the podcasts focusing on one topic I found the most fascinating parts, for me at least, were the parts when they went off topic or addressed things from a larger picture. I was engulfed by the conversations of philosophy, experiences, concepts, people, their culture, our culture and subcultures. Knowledge people would normally have to acquire with age, I was collecting just by listening to these men and women talk in one to two hour segments. Week after week, it became routine to wake up, overhaul my Wi-Fi by downloading so many podcasts at once, lace up my shoes, and not return until sometime in the afternoon. These walks would last anywhere from two, three, maybe even four hours.
I didn’t just absorb the information either. If one of the hosts said even a tiny piece of information or an idea, I would stop the podcast to critically think about what he/she said. Thinking about what that meant about me, my behavior, the culture of my interests, the people around me, and society in general. Then see what other conclusions and ideas I could find by exploring further into thought. Questioning the world around me. I was alone during these walks; which afforded me the space and distraction free environment that allowed me to explore these thoughts. Just me, my thoughts, maybe an occasional jogger, stretches of asphalt and gravel. Most of the time though the best isolation came in the form of the nearby recreational park. Sometimes I would loop the park three, maybe five times to finish the podcasts. Me, my thoughts, and a vault of knowledge. All set to a leaf covered trail, towering trees that only let some of the morning light break through, overlooking a vast lake; engulfed by the cool New York spring air.
I can honestly say that if I had not been alone during these walks, or gone on the walks in general, I would not possess as much knowledge or critical thinking skills as I have today. I can’t list any one thing or group of things I learned from the podcasts; that would be the equivalent of me asking you when you learned to properly behave in public. These ideas, philosophies, and skills are now so ingrained into who I am that they’re impossible to name or trace. By not talking I gained more. Thought fermented in silence. These podcast were merely a ladder for me to reach higher thought. Now I have knowledge beyond that of my years and of my peers.