Explaining Things

Sometimes you have to understand or learn how to do quite difficult things. Actually not just sometimes, but some grown-ups might seem to have a habit of relaxing their learning once they think that they have learned enough and then later this turns them into big furry immobile bears who are for example impossible to discuss politics with. This does not make them bad people. They are still really good people. With a lot of experience.

When I sit down to learn complex theory in the university I sometimes wish things were explained in a much simpler way. Especially if it is the first time I read about a certain thing. I like the word thing, btw, however, I remember that one of my teachers back in primary school didn’t, and we discussed it and I later thought about this word and no, it doesn’t describe anything concrete at all, but a thing can be any object of thought whatsoever and that is somewhat vigorous, if you ask me.

Back to the theory, it helps that you can associate something new with something you have learned before. This is why we have teachers so that they can either explain, inspire or guide us through the materials (that’s right, they should also be able to function as guides or source finders, because sometimes it happens that pupils know more than their teachers and instead of letting these pupils get bored or waste their time helping other pupils, they should be challenged to see how much more they can learn and understand and letting them get ideas of their own and not be left to themselves and forgotten by the school. This is an other subject which I occasionally discuss with my friends, but not what I wanted to blog about today). Understanding complicated stuff which is also very theoretical requires that you yourself to a certain level have to master the language it is written in. Take mathematics, the language of science, which can be written very compact and is also described as unimaginably beautiful when it represents something big and complicated in one simple equation; it is hard to know what it really means unless you have learned the language itself or have so-called holes in your knowledge. Not good. Holes in the knowledge could come from (being lazy or tired, or) that you simply didn’t understand that tiny little thing that showed to be a crucial piece of the big puzzle. In such case you might want to ask a smart friend to explain it to you. Like this example, where someone explains support vector machines in a very stripped down simple way.

Having said this, I think there is a certain satisfaction in understanding complicated stuff written in a theoretical fashion. It means that you have come to a point where you for instance can pick up an academical paper on physics, informatics or something else and actually understand what is there. After a while in university* your brain is turned into a grid containing millions of different boxes where many of them are connected so that when you learn new things you are adapted to it and you put things in the box they belong. And from there you can (after some more experience) easily come up with solutions to problems!

*I think that it is important to point out that this blog post was mainly focused on things learned in university. Learning and understanding is everywhere in life, no matter what you do, practical or theoretical, and either is as important as the other. I just wanted to point out that we are taught to think in a certain way from when we are kids and then we build on top of that. But at some point you would have to throw away some of it (because it was wrong or not precise enough) and think in a completely different way to understand some crazy theory shit in (often) university.

Btw: Thing Explainer is a great book written and illustrated by Randall Munroe, the guy behind xkcd and What If? I got it from one of my brothers last Christmas and it has since come to be a source of inspiration and fun. You should definitely have a look at it.

Btw2: Check out Kim Hiorthøy, a Norwegian multi artist. This song is very cute and has to do with everyday things… Things that work.

Soreja mata!