We Are Our Experiences

“Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper void of all characters, without any ideas: How comes it to be furnished?…To this I answer, in one word, from EXPERIENCE.” -John Locke

I have struggled with the phrase “we are our experiences” for a long time.  Every person that ever said it had already distinguished themselves as pathetic before they uttered it.  It felt like a convenient scapegoat, accepting that they are just a result of their upbringing and environment.  It is a cheap phrase dressed in profundity.  But I have to give it some merit.

My main argument against it was that we have a choice.  At this moment you can choose to treat this person differently, you can acknowledge that there is another way, you can choose to act in the way you know is right, regardless of whether or not it coincides with your past experience.

Then I become trapped.  Where does our sense of right come from?  Buju Banton screams in a song “Circumstances made me what I am/Was I born a violent man?”  I thought freedom was the choice, but I am discovering that denying my experience in the face of the moment is inhibiting.  To accept that my experience is a deep part of who I am and up to this point is the best base I have for guidance and the directing of future behavior allows me to move much more fluidly.

Despite its apparent validity, I still think the phrase is cheap cheese and can burn.