When I was in high school I had the good fortune to take part in the International Baccalaureate program. Part of the program was a class called Theory of Knowledge. The entire purpose of this class was to teach us how to think. Is this even something considered in schools anymore?

We looked into philosophy and art history and theories in science and mathematics. The brunt of the class was a series of essays and associated presentations. The essays most self-directed but something which explored a deeper connection and meaning to work. I remember writing at length about the similarities between Nine Inch Nails and Edgar Allan Poe’s work. I recall writing about Dave Barry and Weird Al Yankovic’s style of humor and entertainment.

When we weren’t writing, we were talking. Not just talking but discussing and arguing. We were putting forth ideas and theories and shooting them down or supporting them.

There were not a lot of rights answers in Theory of Knowledge, TOK for short. The class was about thinking and drawing our own conclusions and examining how we arrived at them.

This all came flooding back into my head tonight as I read James Shelley’s post Like, the Post-Literate Society.

1984 is a great book because it is just as timely as it is timeless. It is a tale on control and media and influencing entire populations through fear and censorship. ((Sound familiar?))

Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten…

Sounds a bit like social media doesn’t it? Like. #Tweet. Reblog.

In my thinking about TOK I remembered reading Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. I cannot tell you what this book is about. Only that is keeps within the theme of thinking and learning.


The author says this about his work,

Franz Kafka once wrote to a friend that the only books worth reading are those that “wake us up with a blow on the head” and send us reeling out into the street, not knowing who or what we are. According to thousands of readers I’ve heard from, this is exactly what Ishmael does for them. What makes Ishmael important is not what it’s “about” but rather what it DOES to you–and this is what you need to share with your friends. (Source)

As much as I love Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook they tend to be echo chambers. The same links, stories, ideas tend to circle round and round ad infinitum. I find myself craving new information. I want to think about new things and I want to explore again.

I have spent many hours on introspection because I feel it is important to look inward to best understand myself.

With that, I am going to buy Ishmael, and the two followup books having lent, lost or sold my copies years ago. I am going to re-examine how I think. I need something to wake me up with a blow to the head. I am ready to be a pupil again.

“Teacher seeks pupil, must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.”

Read Ishmael.

Then perhaps you can answer,

“With man gone, will there be hope for gorilla?”