The Feeling of Thinking

Exploring the terror of stupidity, the shame of ignorance, the frustration of confusion, and the joys of constructing our own minds.

Introducing The Feeling of Thinking Blog

To learn better, first learn to forgive yourself.

Hello, folks. My name is James Marcus Bach. I'm the new blogger on the block, today. My web site is www.buccaneerscholar.com. My email is james@buccaneerscholar.com. My Twitter address is @jamesmarcusbach.

If you tell me that my education is incomplete, or that my logic is flawed, it's not my education or logic that will react first. It's my feelings. Feelings are the gateway to anything else my mind wants to do.

I want to think better and learn faster. Oops, I feel fear. Maybe I'm not smart enough! I pick up a book about logic. Now I feel defensive. What does this guy know about thinking that I don't know?! I flip through the book and feel indignation. The "laws of thought?" Codswaddle! I can exclude the middle if I want to, or not exclude it, or both exclude and not exclude it!

It works the other way, too. I see a math problem and I feel like one of those cartoons where I hallucinate that it's really Thanksgiving turkey. So hungry for math! I confront an unfamiliar computer and feel outright lust. Look at those pretty pretty buttons. Come here, baby, let's do screenshots!

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So, long ago, when I was a fresh-faced school-indoctrinated child, I believed that learning quickly and thinking better was a question of techniques. I sought those techniques, encountered them, and failed to get smarter. I felt more deeply ashamed and worthless with each attempt to use them, until I could no longer bring myself to try. I was stuck in performance anxiety right up to my brain axles.

But then a breakthrough. I accidentally found a way to cope with my fear of learning. What I did was "normalize" not learning. I decided that failing to learn was the ordinary and expected outcome of trying to learn. By doing that, I threw off all that pressure on myself to learn faster and think better. Paradoxically, removing the pressure to learn made me able to relax and learn. I could courageously throw myself into any study, not heeding the outcome, and therefore enjoying the process. Performance anxiety solved.

I eventually developed a whole approach to self-education based on self-forgiveness and harnessing passion, rather than self-discipline and rigid rules. I wrote about this in my book, Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar. My mission in the book is to help people set themselves free of the unhelpful myths about the life of mind that hold us back.

In this blog, I will not practice much journalism. My goal is to examine my own feelings about moments of learning and intellectual culture. I hope what I say will resonate with you in a helpful way.

-- James

James Bach is a successful high school dropout who wrote Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar, a book about radical self-education.

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